Answering Some Questions

Dave · January 28, 2008 at 9:43 am · Filed Under Mariners 

There are several recurring questions popping up in all the Jones-Bedard threads. Here’s my brief answer to some of them.

Why do you hate this team?

I spend hundreds of hours every year watching, thinking, and writing about the Seattle Mariners. I do crazy things like track Felix Hernandez’s pitch selection so that I can try to understand his inconsistency. I flew to Peoria last year so that I could watch 17-year-olds who might be Mariners someday take batting practice.

I’m not happy when the team loses. Some of my best memories in life involve the Mariners achieving success despite the odds. I’d cut off my left arm to experience 1995 again. I’m going to jump around like a crazed idiot when the Mariners finally win a World Series.

I want the Mariners to succeed. Badly. Unfortunately, I’m convinced that the philosophies they adhere to in their attempt to succeed are inherently flawed and will lead to failure. Years of rooting for a team to win in spite of itself is frustrating. Frustration, however, is nothing like rooting for failure. I would love nothing more than Erik Bedard to go 34-1, post one of the great seasons in baseball history, and the team to hold a parade in November.

But unfortunately, I’m too pragmatic to constantly believe in longshots. And the M’s are a longshot to make us all happy this year.

Isn’t Adam Jones just an unproven prospect? How is he any different than failed prospects of the past

The word prospect is essentially defined as a player with potential who has not yet reached the level of being able to compete in the big leagues. There is hope that, in the future, they will be able to contribute to the franchise with their on field abilities, but it’s understood that that time is not here now.

Adam Jones stopped being a prospect about eight months ago. He doesn’t need to improve one iota to be a quality major league player. If he never gets any better than he is today, he’ll have a nice major league career.

I know for many the paradigm of a prospect is a player who has yet to prove himself with major league performance. But that perspective, the I-won’t-believe-it-until-I-see-it ideal, isn’t one that we hold to in any other aspect of life, and it’s one that should be easily abandoned once we recognize it as an analytical flaw. If you purchase a new home, do you not believe that the roof will keep you dry until after you’ve lived under it through a rainstorm and examined your skin afterwards? Of course not. You understand the physical limitations of rain passing through dense material, and you believe – without having witnessed that particular roof do anything – that the roof has those qualities.

Your belief in Adam Jones’ current abilities doesn’t do anything to change what they actually are right now. Your perspective might change after you have more evidence, but the reality of Jones’ abilities is going to be the same regardless of a third party opinion. His skills are a tangible reality, and it’s our assertion that his skillset – right now, today, with no further development needed – is that of an above average major league player.

Things don’t become real after they happen. Adam Jones, right now, is not a prospect. Carlos Triunfel, Chris Tillman, Wladimir Balentien, Jeff Clement – these guys are prospects. They need to get better before they can help a major league team win baseball games. Adam Jones hasn’t been in that category of player for quite a while now.

But Erik Bedard is an ace! Two Aces! We’ll be unbeatable in a short series!

The Toronto Blue Jays featured Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and Dustin McGowan at the front of their rotation last year. That’s a significantly better trio than Bedard, Hernandez, and Silva. The Blue Jays won 83 games.

Having two great pitchers is awesome, but unless you’re cloning Pedro Martinez in his prime, you better have a good supporting cast around them if you want to win consistently. The Mariners supporting cast now includes a DH in left field, a hole in right field, an enigma at second base, one of the worst first baseman in baseball, and a DH whose career is teetering on the verge of extinction. They also don’t have any organizational depth in position players, so an injury to a key player (say, Ichiro or Beltre) pretty much ends their season before it starts.

There’s just no way you can realistically believe that the 2008 Mariners are as good as the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, or Angels. Right now, they’re something like the sixth best team in the American League. Even with two frontline starters at the top of their rotation.

Isn’t Wladimir Balentien almost as good as Adam Jones? Why can’t we just plug him into right field?

Balentien, unlike Jones, has some significant progress to make before he can help a major league team. He can hit a fastball a long way, but the rest of his game still needs work. He still struggles with pitch recognition, leading to him guessing a lot. You can succeed as a guess hitter, but the margin for error when you guess right is minimal, and Balentien isn’t yet in the crushes-anything-he-hits category. Pitchers with any kind of command and off-speed pitch won’t find him especially challenging. And, defensively, he’s average at best in a corner.

Balentien in ’08 projects as a .240/.290/.400 type of hitter, and that’s just not a guy that a team trying to win its division can afford to give many at-bats to unless he’s playing excellent defense at a premium position. Maybe a few more months in Tacoma will give him the opportunity to refine his game and he could help the team in the second half, but the Mariners certainly shouldn’t count on it.

Well, if they need to get better to contend, now what should the M’s do?

Since the team is going all-in for 2008, mortgaging the future in a chance to steal the division from the Angels this year, they need to get serious about fixing some of the other problems on this roster. Right field is now a gaping hole, and unfortunately, the good free agent outfielders are already off the board. The best plan would be to pursue a trade for a new young outfielder (call the Cubs about Matt Murton or Felix Pie please), but unfortunately, the team’s going to be running low on trade chips after this deal is complete.

They’d also do well to not count on production from all three of Sexson, Vidro, and Ibanez to make the offense work, and bring in a new LF or 1B to make those guys fight for two spots. If they haven’t yet called about Nick Johnson, they better.

Dealing the farm for Bedard means you don’t have the luxury of hoping guys post career years or bounce back from decline to carry your offense. You better be able to score and prevent runs on a nightly basis, because it’s going to take 90-95 wins to make the playoffs, and then you have to get past two of Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit.

They can’t call it an offseason and head to Peoria now. They’ve committed themselves to contending in ’08 – they have now actually finish building a contender.


85 Responses to “Answering Some Questions”

  1. gwangung on January 28th, 2008 12:50 pm

    Yeah, and we’re not even talking about the second and third players….(or fourth????)

  2. diderot on January 28th, 2008 12:58 pm

    My point was that we don’t know ‘realities of this trade’ yet. For example, losing Tillman or Trumfiel may definitely hurt down the line…but not this year. Losing Sherrill, or even Morrow, could hurt this year. So until we know, we have to look at this as Bedard for Jones, which is how the vast majority of posters are addressing it.
    I think it’s undeniable that even with Jones in right field, the big problem with our team is that there is no legitimate #3 or #4 hitter in the lineup. Remember, Guillen filled that spot by the end of next year. Somehow, I don’t see Jones putting the same fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers as Vlad does.
    So let me pose a question: what about Ichiro on the #3 hole?

  3. galaxieboi on January 28th, 2008 1:06 pm

    So let me pose a question: what about Ichiro on the #3 hole?

    Who leads off? Ichiro is the only guy on the team who gets on base enough to be in the leadoff spot. No one else’s OBP justifies the slot in the order.

  4. milendriel on January 28th, 2008 1:08 pm

    46- Sure, anything can happen. The M’s can make the playoffs with Bedard. They can make it without him too. Everyone agrees the whole reason for acquiring Bedard is to increase those chances. But, to properly evaluate the trade, you have to understand what those chances currently are and what Bedard increases them to. No rational person is going to say the team doesn’t improve in 2008 with this trade, but are our playoff odds good enough to justify the cost of the trade? The only way anyone can argue that this trade makes sense is by believing the M’s chances were already good before getting Bedard–which would be taking their 88 wins in 2007 at face value–or by believing Bedard is a big enough upgrade to give the M’s a good chance, which is where the actual merits of Jones and prospects versus Bedard come into play. I personally don’t see any justification for either of those beliefs.

  5. Alaskan on January 28th, 2008 1:27 pm

    I think it’s undeniable that even with Jones in right field, the big problem with our team is that there is no legitimate #3 or #4 hitter in the lineup.

    I don’t approve of the use of ‘undeniable’ in this context at all. I would say that those spots are certainly problems, but “the big problem,” I’m not so sure. Outfield defense is also a big problem. Richie Sexson’s game is a big problem. Lopez’ slumps, and his possible replacements at 2B, are big problems. I wouldn’t give the Big Problem Award to the lineup just yet.

    Oh, and I think you mean Wlad, right?

  6. joser on January 28th, 2008 1:29 pm

    But the bottom line for me is this: are the M’s more competitive in 08 with Bedard pitching…or AJ in right field? I think we can all agree that Bedard is a bigger benefit this year.

    No, as a matter of fact, we can’t. Dave made a comparison with last year’s Blue Jays, saying

    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.

    Ok, but the M’s are getting Bedard for a couple of years, and giving up six years of Jones. How about that? As Dave said

    In terms of value added to the Mariners franchise over the next six years, it’s not even close. Jones blows Bedard out of the water even in a scenario where Bedard is projected to be the significantly better player (I’ve got the total wins added from ‘08-’13 at 17 for Jones and 26 for Bedard). Even if you only look at the next two years, Jones is expected to outvalue Bedard $22.75 million to $21.5 million.

    Even if Adam Jones was a free agent after 2009, given their respective abilities and salaries, I wouldn’t trade Adam Jones for Erik Bedard straight up. The fact that the Mariners then control Jones from 2010 to 2013 makes this an obviously horrible trade.

    And it’s not a straight up trade — the M’s are giving up more than just Jones.

  7. JD on January 28th, 2008 1:35 pm


    That seems to be the major issue of contention, no one side is looking at the numbers of the other with equal consistency, or atleast it’s been rare today. Jones hasn’t hit well yet, Bedard’s only been an ace for a year. I think most on the board understand that this needs to be one of two or three moves. I’m positive about the trade given conditions: Bedard is signed long term, a RF is brought in.

    Dave, in the original post you mentioned that Jones is an above average major leaguer. If the bat has yet to make contact, the rest is merely presumption (as hread #25 pointed out, the numbers can go up)- What do you base your comparisons on then? Not looking for a swarm of killer bees, just some insight for an average fan looking to learn some more.

    Also, do you see Bedard’s presence as #1 contributing to the development of Felix?

  8. smolder12 on January 28th, 2008 1:36 pm

    I think that the mention of Cory Patterson is a good one. Dave or Derek—any opinion on whether or not you feel Patterson might be a good option/bad option or no option at all??

  9. Colorado M's Fan on January 28th, 2008 1:41 pm

    I think that the whole “just a prospect” idea people have been spouting about is just to underscore the uncertainty of Adam Jones. I personally think he will be an All-star within 2 years for Baltimore (not with us though), but I concede the point that Jones is still a little raw (something that will naturally fix itself with MLB reps). Jones is tremendously talented though and even during his growing pains I expect him to post at least a .725 OPS. There is always the chance he could become injured or tank as a major leaguer, but that risk is really no higher than Bedards at this stage.

  10. marinerfaninvenice on January 28th, 2008 1:43 pm

    Maybe some combination of Roberts for Lopez is included here, too? That would be a solid addition (direct and by subtraction).

  11. nickwest1976 on January 28th, 2008 1:49 pm

    Why not go get Kenny Lofton to play RF? He would cover a lot of ground and is a career .380 OBP type who would be another great table setter at the top of the order with Ichiro. Might as well go with speed and obp to generate runs with our rotation.

    Also, why won’t the M’s just DH Raul Ibanez and put Balentien/Reed platoon in LF. Move Vidro to the bench and he can back up at 1B and 2B on occassion and be a good pinch hitter.

  12. nickwest1976 on January 28th, 2008 1:50 pm

    #60, I hope you are right about Brian Roberts!

  13. marinerfaninvenice on January 28th, 2008 2:02 pm

    #61 – I’d like to see the M’s give Reed a fair shot this year. Let Reed/Balentin/Wilkerson/Ibanez swap the 2OF and the DH slots according to match-ups & streaks, moving Vidro to the bench where he can sit aside his gritty statistical clones Miguel Cairo and Willie Bloomquist.

    Regarding Roberts — it doesn’t seem out of the question since its been speculated that once the O’s deal Bedard that Roberts would be next to go. And if they’re getting Jones they wouldn’t need Murton/Pie. Add JoLo and Morse into the mix and it seems equitable. Of course Bavasi would probably have to (or opt to) toss in the rest of the farm system instead.

    I’m excited about Bedard, but would definitely feel better if there were another piece coming to address current gaps, as well as the new gap caused by losing Jones.

  14. eponymous coward on January 28th, 2008 2:43 pm

    I don’t think Reed is an answer in LF. He’s Todd Hollandsworth Lite. Lofton might be OK on a one year deal.

  15. jeffs98119 on January 28th, 2008 3:02 pm

    Re: 15–I asked Dave and got no answer, but don’t his projections for Balentien seem pretty low? Is there science behind them, or just pessimism? Dave, feel free to flame me now (but no bees please)…

  16. diderot on January 28th, 2008 3:10 pm

    [I’m tired of your snark]

  17. Jeff Nye on January 28th, 2008 3:21 pm

    I know the lower perceived upside for Balentien has been discussed here previously, but I don’t have a link handy for you.

    From what I recall, he is just still too raw to contribute in the majors, and doesn’t have Jones’s upside in any case.

    He could still end up being a nice player, but not much more than that, and he isn’t ready to be even that in the major leagues in 2008.

  18. Wishhiker on January 28th, 2008 3:31 pm

    Any time I’ve ever seen a line like .667/.500/2.000 I’ve known it meant nothing. Balentien has had 3 Major League AB, any stats accrued in them are meaningless in regards to telling what kind of player he is. There is a player that hit a HR in their first ML AB and never another one. Anything can happen in a short period of time, regardless of overall talent.

    10 other players who came up with the M’s for a small cup:

    Player A 45 AB .200/.245/.267 1 XBH

    Player B 58 AB .397/.470/.466 4 XBH

    Player C 54 AB .204/.241/.204 0 XBH

    Player D 51 AB .235/.316/.255 1 XBH

    Player E 43 AB .372/.413/.581 7 XBH

    Player F 27 AB .296/.321/.444 2 XBH

    Player G 94 AB .255/.293/.404 6 XBH

    Player H 68 AB .221/.308/.279 4 XBH

    Player I 39 AB .333/.381/.410 2 XBH

    Player J 33 AB .455/.526/.576 4 XBH

    Is this all anyone really wants to now about a player? Even if I put SO, SB, HR, 2B, 3B, R, RBI and all the other ‘Newspaper’ stats there it would still mean nothing.

    How about if I tell you that there’s 1 HOF player and a borderline HOF among those 10…I’ll bet that only the people who know these stats are meaningless can tell me which statlines are those 2 without looking them up.

    How about a player that came up for ChiSox that Jones has been compared to

    Cameron 38 AB .184/.244/.316 3 XBH
    Jones 74 AB .216/.237/.311 5 XBH

    Forget that Jones was 2 years younger than Mike Cameron and any other data that I can acquire? Why? Most of these players have had 3+ years of scouting and Minor League numbers compiled that show what a player does over a season and the Major League stats above were accrued in limited action. Not playing every day has an effect on ballplayers.

  19. Mustard on January 28th, 2008 3:50 pm

    “The Toronto Blue Jays featured Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and Dustin McGowan at the front of their rotation last year. That’s a significantly better trio than Bedard, Hernandez, and Silva. The Blue Jays won 83 games.”

    Question: Is that really a fair comparison given the difference in competition? Does anyone think that if the Blue Jays resided in the West and they threw out Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Litsch/Janssen they would only win 83 games? I like your other points, but living here in Toronto we would beg to be able to play out West, to avoid the Yanks/RedSox. That being said, it wasnt the lack of pitching that got us to only 83 wins, but rather the lack of offense from Overbay, Wells, Glaus etc.

  20. jeffs98119 on January 28th, 2008 3:52 pm

    Re: 68–If that was aimed in my direction, I wasn’t implying his miniscule ML numbers meant anything. His AAA numbers last year were almost as good as Jones’ on the same team, he struck out less and walked more often. I understand Dave believes he won’t be as good, I don’t disagree, I just don’t understand what science he uses to get those awful projections.

  21. marc w on January 28th, 2008 4:05 pm

    70 –

    If you’d prefer nicer projections, check out fangraphs.

    The Bill James projection would do quite nicely, thank you. Dave’s is pretty close to CHONE, but it still the lowest.

    Don’t wanna speak for Dave, but I think the pessimism is based on numerous reports that Wlad still can’t identify and then hit breaking pitches. In AAA, he drew some walks on tough breaking balls, and many think those BBs will move to Ks in the majors where guys can get offspeed stuff over the plate.
    There’s also Jones’ defensive edge but obviously that didn’t affect the batting line projections.

    I hear what Dave’s saying, but think the Bill James line won’t be too far from reality. Maybe that’s wishcasting, but I’ve seen the guy fight off some tough pitches, and while he still can’t *drive* many of them, he’s not far from being able to really rake. That said, factor in defense and he really is quite a ways behind Jones.

  22. jlc on January 28th, 2008 4:07 pm

    “That being said, it wasnt the lack of pitching that got us [Toronto] to only 83 wins, but rather the lack of offense from Overbay, Wells, Glaus etc.”

    Isn’t that kind of the point? That you can have stellar pitchers and yet you still need the rest of the team to produce?

  23. Wishhiker on January 28th, 2008 4:10 pm

    70 I was just giving statistics to show in general how the small sample size doesn’t mean much. It would appear that there were 5 good to great players on that list, but that’s not the case. I had an argument with a friend who was saying that Jones didn’t show as well in his ML AB’s as Balentien did and that may have run over into this…

    The understanding I’ve gotten is that Jones is just more ML ready as a hitter, base-runner and fielder. Hitting wise alone the things I’m hearing most about the 2 is that Wlad’s ceiling as a hitter is higher, but Jones’ bat is ML ready and Wlad’s is not.

    I don’t even recall Dave saying that Wlad won’t be as good as Adam, just that one is ready now and the other not.

  24. Wishhiker on January 28th, 2008 4:47 pm

    I don’t know if anyone’s puzzling out who’s who and having fun with it, but I figured I’d post the names an hour later, so:

    Chris Widger 45 AB .200/.245/.267 1 XBH

    Jeremy Reed 58 AB .397/.470/.466 4 XBH

    Alex Rodriguez 54 AB .204/.241/.204 0 XBH

    Charles Gipson 51 AB .235/.316/.255 1 XBH

    Edgar Martinez 43 AB .372/.413/.581 7 XBH

    Dave Valle 27 AB .296/.321/.444 2 XBH

    Paul Serna 94 AB .255/.293/.404 6 XBH

    Tino Martinez 68 AB .221/.308/.279 4 XBH

    Carlos Guillen 39 AB .333/.381/.410 2 XBH

    Willie Bloomquist 33 AB .455/.526/.576 4 XBH

    That’s right…the guy with 0 extra base hits in their first time up is the one who’s considered the favorite to take the HR crown from Bonds. You can see that some players had lines within range of their career numbers and some had lines way out of line (whether much better or much worse.) Any time I’ve looked at a comparison of first year numbers for players brought up in Aug-Sept this is the kind of accuracy I’ve seen in showing who’s who. There’s really no pattern, it appears to be indicative of absolutely nothing. The other 9 players have more power than A-Rod? Willie Bloomquist and Jeremy Reed are probably the best 2 prospects who’ve been brought up by the M’s? Meaningless…

  25. Mustard on January 28th, 2008 5:17 pm

    #72 jlc: Maybe i misinterpreted the point, but if you took the M’s staff and threw them into the East… think they could get 83 wins?

    What I was questioning is the fact that the Mariners dont have to play the RedSox/Yankees 34 times a year. Last year Toronto went 15/34 against them. 44% success rate.

  26. diderot on January 28th, 2008 5:37 pm


    Yes, that is the point. Well said.

    Dave–did I offend you?

  27. kennyb on January 28th, 2008 5:56 pm

    guiseppe says: As DMZ pointed out last night in another thread there have been thousands of words on this topic over the last few weeks.

    In reality, there have been about 50 words on this topic, they have just been written thousands of times.

  28. fetish on January 28th, 2008 6:05 pm

    My post (#18) wasn’t about if Jones was good or not,

    my issue (as I see it) is that Dave believes that those who don’t think Jones is that great are willfully engaging in cognitive dissonance or in a best-case scenario, ignorant.

    But my point is, there is actual evidence that can be used to support the opinion that Jones is so-so. I’ve watched and played a ton of baseball in my life, and I don’t see from Jones what I’ve seen from other young players that go on to have productive careers (The “Brandon Roy Effect” or something). No way to quantify that, but I think we can all agree that there is something beyond number analysis. Meanwhile, his numbers when I’ve seen them (ie, with the M’s) don’t stand out.

    It is entirely realistic that informed, intelligent people can have a contrary opinion re:Jones. It would be nice USSM writers (and posters!) would not treat those with that opinion as if they were simply refusing to be rational: we’ve assembled a reasonable amount of evidence and come to our conclusion.

    I also have noticed that Dave values young players very highly, moreso almost certainly than a majority of front offices or MSM sources. I feel like Dave is a young player fanboy. So this makes me discount Dave’s opinion somewhat. I don’t automatically assume that Jones sucks, or that gritty veteran X is awesome (Of all things, re-tread players and coaches are my most loathed), all I want to see are guys contribute to the MARINERS. Not the Aqua Sox, or Rainers, or 66’ers (are they still with us?), etc.

  29. Taylor H on January 28th, 2008 6:05 pm

    On the Wilkerson front, he sure walks a lot. That’s something we need on our club – a lefty power-hitter who walks a lot.

  30. Wilder83 on January 28th, 2008 6:12 pm

    I won’t argue whether Adam Jones is a “prospect” or not, but that roof on the house analogy is flawed. All roofs have the same basic qualities and have been proven to keep rain outside the house. In very rare cases does the roof leak on a new home.

    For the case of Adam Jones, not all prospects have the same basic qualities. In very rare cases does the prospect reach his potential (which can be debated, and has been, and I won’t argue against the case that has been made a bazillion times already).

    The analogy used in this case does not work.

    Personally, I don’t care whether we have Jones or Bedard on our roster. They are both going to be fun to watch and will improve our team either way. And who knows, we may be able to retain Bedard for more than 2 years. His price isn’t that big of an issue as Ibanez, Sexson, Beltre, Vidro, Washburn, and Batista come off the books by the end of the 2009 season. We will have the cash to be able to re-sign Bedard and a solid outfielder. And by 2010, we may be able to raise up another Prophet among us.

  31. gwangung on January 28th, 2008 6:31 pm

    But my point is, there is actual evidence that can be used to support the opinion that Jones is so-so. I’ve watched and played a ton of baseball in my life, and I don’t see from Jones what I’ve seen from other young players that go on to have productive careers (The “Brandon Roy Effect” or something). No way to quantify that, but I think we can all agree that there is something beyond number analysis. Meanwhile, his numbers when I’ve seen them (ie, with the M’s) don’t stand out.

    So, you said you had some evidence….?

  32. jeffs98119 on January 28th, 2008 6:59 pm

    Re: 71–So, looking at fangraphs, Bill James actually projects Balentien to have a higher OPS than Jones (barely, .785 to .782), with both projected ~100 games. Marcel also has Balentien better by a much larger margin (.811 to .738), while CHONE has Jones a little better (.747 to .725). All three give Balentien the better walk rate, too. Granted (since I don’t have data to disprove it), Jones is better defensively, but I don’t see a reason to call the trade doomsday or discount the possibility that Balentien will actually do quite well.

  33. joser on January 28th, 2008 8:31 pm

    I feel like Dave is a young player fanboy.

    Dave is a value fanboy. He believes in getting the best return on payroll investment, and using the savings to go after players that really deserve it. Young players generally offer most or all of the performance of veteran players, but they’re much cheaper. It’s as simple as that. If old players got cheaper (like they often should) Dave would be an “old player” fanboy (at least until they get so old they’re useless). But old players get more expensive (often when they also are getting close to useless).

  34. Sidi on January 28th, 2008 10:41 pm

    83 well put. When I was discussing this trade with my wife I talked about Felix. According to MLB he made $420,000 last year. She said that was a lot of money.

    But even with a season that was a slight disappointment, you couldn’t get his performance from a “proven” MLB player for 5x the price, and probably not 15x the price (unless you shopped well). One cheap, decent player frees up a ton of money to buy a true star. When you start throwing away the guys who can make up the core of the team, without actually hurting the budget…well, there had better be a serious plan behind it.

  35. Sidi on January 28th, 2008 10:48 pm

    Actually, I take that back. Looking at the numbers I think finding his performance for 25x the price on the open market would be a miracle.

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