A short note on the development of Jones

January 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on A short note on the development of Jones 

One of the things that came up in the comments to the last few posts is the “gotcha, you said Adam Jones sucked and was a horrible draft pick and now you’re all crying over him.” This does a poor job of representing the truth of what’s actually happened. It’s true that Dave didn’t like the pick, and one of the earliest USSM posts you can find on Jones is Dave talking to unimpressed scouts and rolling his eyes at Adam Jones/Alex Rodriguez comparisons. The turning point was when Jones, at 19 in high-A, started to absolutely scorch the ball. We’ve been increasingly rabid fans ever since.

Dave even pointed this turning point out in 2005:

The biggest move up the charts belongs to Adam Jones, who moved from Project to Future Prospect and saw his reward rating bumped up from a 6 to a 7. He hasn’t gotten a ton of recognition, but Jones has been on fire the past month, raising his season batting line to .313/.388/.548. 28 of his 65 hits–43 percent!–have gone for extra bases. He’s still a free swinger (19 walks, 49 strikeouts) and has a lot of work to do on breaking balls, but the offensive surge Jones has seen is a very good sign for his future. I’ve been publicly critical of the Jones selection and postulated that he may end up on the mound at some point in his career, but he’s making those comments look quite foolish. […]

After that, I think you’d be hard pressed to find more constant advocates for the potential of Jones than us, even though we acknowledged his defensive troubles at short, and even though I frequently said that there was a good chance Jones would have a very nice career without achieving superstardom.

Is that really so bad, to be skeptical and listen to scouts, to be willing to recognize when you’re wrong and change your opinion seeing a player make great development strides? I can’t believe that it is.

22 Things I Believe About This Trade

January 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 292 Comments 

1. Erik Bedard is awesome – one of the five best pitchers in the American League.

2. Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez are both candidates for the 2008 AL Cy Young Award.

3. Two great pitchers and mediocre everything else is not a formula for consistent success.

4. The Mariners are going to miss Adam Jones. Badly.

5. The Mariners right fielder in 2008 is going to suck.

6. The Mariners outfield defense is going to suck.

7. In 2009, we’re going to be hunting for two new corner outfielders.

8. The Angels are still the most likely team in baseball to win their division.

9. The Mariners improved themselves by, at most, 2-3 wins in 2008 with this deal.

10. If Erik Bedard isn’t healthy all year, we’ll be analyzing the new GM in 10 months.

11. The Mariners wouldn’t have made this trade if they understood how to value defense.

12. I will run out of analogies for this trade before spring training starts.

13. The total amount of talent given up will rival only the Bartolo Colon trade of 2002.

14. The biggest loser in this deal will be Jarrod Washburn.

15. This trade cements the fact that Brandon Morrow will never start a game for the M’s.

16. The idea that the M’s valued Morrow over Jones is so ridiculous, I can’t even fathom it.

17. The Mariners are now paying Horacio $2.75 million to fight for the role of long reliever.

18. In July, the M’s will be talking about trading for a veteran relieve to improve the ‘pen.

19. Geoff Baker and I will never agree on any of this.

20. Jeff Sullivan and I will agree on all of this.

21. I won’t care much over losing Chris Tillman. I will care deeply over losing Carlos Triunfel.

22. The M’s have, once again, taken a bad path to a good goal. It will, once again, not work.

Zero days since a bad move

January 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 89 Comments 

It is confusing and distressing to witness a team that claims to be interested in fielding a competitive team over the long term trade a player of Jones’ talent and value, along what we reasonably expect to be highly valuable pieces, to the Orioles for a pitcher determined to test free agency at the end of his contract.

I have no doubt that the Mariners front office is interested in winning, and I wish that they would seek to become better by applying concepts in use by other, successful teams to realize the value of prospects like Jones, and to find alternatives to paying such high prices in trade. Such a change would be in the best interests of the team, by allowing it to face challenges by well-funded and well-run divisional rivals and also in the best interests of the fan base, who would like to see a Mariner team built to make a run at the World Series, and not just be part of the race for the division pennant for part of the season.

My best wishes go to Adam Jones, who I’ve been a fan of since I saw him play in Everett. I hope you go on to have a great career, even if it’s not with the Mariners where we could enjoy seeing your career.

My heart goes to the team, in the hopes that the extremely high price they have paid for their adherence to their philosophy leads them to consider a better way.

The Inevitable Becomes Reality

January 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 

According to Geoff Baker, Adam Jones is on his way to Baltimore for a physical. The deal is done – it’s going to be some kind of Jones/Sherrill/prospects (probably Tillman and someone) deal for Bedard.

If you’ve read the blog for more than a day or two, you know we’re not fans of this deal because we believe that the team will regret giving up Adam Jones. That said, Erik Bedard is awesome, and we welcome him to Seattle.

But this still sucks.

Felix’s development to stall, other ill news

January 25, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 39 Comments 

Lots of badness in Baker’s blog post on the “spring training luncheon at Safeco Field

Norm Charlton feels that Felix needs to rely on his fastball more, which is great we know from all of Dave’s painstaking research last year that that’s a horrible, horrible idea.

Late-season bullpen woes are blamed on Hargrove for using them too much early in the season and inexperience.

I’m no Hargrove fan (uh, obviously) but that’s just nutty. April:
Felix, no reliever
Felix+ 1 reliever 1 IP
Felix + 3 relievers, 8.2 IP

3 starts, 4 pitchers used in relief to cover 9.2 innings (~3 innings/start)

Washburn, no help
Washburn + 3 relievers, 3 IP
Washburn + 3 relievers, 3 IP
Washburn + 4 relievers, 3.2 IP
4 starts, bullpen covered 9.2 IP (~2 IP/start)

Batista + 2 relievers, 2 IP
Batista + 4 relievers, 2.1 IP
Batista + 5 relievers, 3.2 IP
Batista + 2 relievers, 4.1 IP
4 starts, 12.1 IP (3 IP/start)

Weaver + 2 relievers, 3 IP
Weaver + 3 relievers, 5 IP
Weaver + five relievers, 6 IP
Weaver + 4 relievers, 8.2 IP
4 starts, 22.2 IP (almost six IP/start)

HoRam + 2 relievers, 2.2 IP
HoRam + 2 relievers, 3 IP
HoRam + 5 relievers, 4 IP
3 starts, 9.2 IP, (3 IP/start)

Baek + 2 relievers, 2.2 IP
Baek + 2 relievers, 4.2 IP
2 starts, 4 IP/start (but it’s hard to blame him, they knew they were getting into that)

You could do this for May, too, and likely come up with some similar results. I’d argue that Hargrove regularly threw too many pitchers out there, getting far too cute with matchups and one-inning roles, but equipped with that starting rotation, confronted with those kind of regular meltdowns, of course the bullpen got used heavily. This was never a rotation with five pitchers who were efficient with pitches and regularly worked into the eighth inning.

So yeah, warming up and throwing all of those guys out there was bad, but there was no way he shouldn’t have been hooking Weaver from those games, or letting HoRam continue to pitch while tired, and so on.


M’s still pursuing #1 starter

January 25, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 68 Comments 

Baker writes of Bavasi’s continued pursuit of Bedard. I mean, a #1 starter.

I guess we’re not out of this yet.

The thing that stuck out to me was the comment about getting “from 88 wins” to where they want to be. Clearly, they don’t see last season’s performance as a fluke, and think that any addition they make will add on to that — rather than a .500 team that is unlikely to compete for a playoff spot next year.

Also — Tony Clark rumors. What in the world would the M’s want Tony Clark on the team for?

Adam Jones on a playoff team

January 25, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

It’s the wonder of winter league baseball. In Venezuelan Professional Baseball League news, the Lara Cardinals will play the Aragua Tigers. The Cardinals have Jose Lopez (hitting .309) and Adam Jones.

Also on the Cardinals? LUIS UGUETO!! And their home page celebrates “1000 hits Luis Sojo”. Oh yeah.

Which brings up a question we’ve been emailed: Dave earlier advocated picking up Bartolo Colon as a good gamble on a one-year deal, and we haven’t written about it since. Word out of Venezuela is that Colon’s looked bad enough to warn teams off: he’s out of shape, laboring to get deep into games, and he’s not throwing well or fast. So he may not be entirely healthy, and if he is, he’s still not in any condition you’d want on the team unless you want to hope that he’ll shape up before and during spring training and get his stuff working.

So there’s that.

The mystery of the M’s new pricing scheme

January 24, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 101 Comments 

Something’s been bugging me about the M’s ticket pricing scheme, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since it was announced without solving it. The M’s business side is great at making money off its fan base, so ‘m sure that there’s some reasoning here that I’m just not seeing. I hope that one of our readers with more of an economics background might have some insight.

Why does the M’s new ticket scheme attempt to get more money out of the most price-sensitive customers?

I understand variable pricing for games, in which they hike the cost of certain games to take advantage of demand for particular products people are willing to pay more for, like Opening Day or Yankee games. Makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. If you know there’s a huge additional demand for those games from people who want to only attend those games (a Yankee fan isn’t going to attend the M’s-Rangers game to cheer on his team even if the tickets are far less expensive). And since there are only a limited number of tickets, the M’s don’t have to figure out how to get those fans to self-identify and pay more while selling as many as possible (by offering a Seattle discount that’s unlikely to let the Yankees fans with money get in for cheap: half off for students of local colleges, for instance, or with purchase of another set of game tickets). Demand-based fleecing, I totally understand.

And I understand why season ticket holders, who pay for the full year, get a discount. If you make the season cheaper, they’re more likely to buy tickets they wouldn’t have if they bought individually, you reduce sticker shock a little and allow them to think of it as a savings, you bank the revenue early, and when you get fans to drag themselves to the park because they already bought tickets, those fans drop even more money on high-margin parking, food, and drink.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the advance-purchase discount. The Mariners draw from a spectrum of customers, which runs:
– rabid Mariner fans who greatly prefer seeing a game in person to any other form of entertainment
– Mariner fans who strongly prefer to see a game compared to other forms of entertainment
– Casual fans who like to see a few games a season
– Fans who go because the team’s winning, or it’s a beautiful day to be at Safeco Field, or there’s a Moose-related giveaway, or whatever

The further you go down the spectrum, the more likely a fan is to seek a different activity based on price. That’s obvious, right? The more interested you are, the more you’ll pay for that activity.

That’s what baffles me. The people who are interested in day-of-game tickets, who now pay a penalty compared to the people who book months in advance, are far less likely to be willing to pay a premium. Someone who isn’t a strong Mariner fan will look at the new ticket prices, compare them to bowling or seeing a movie or whatever their other options are for that weekend, or that night. That premium may be what pushes them towards a casino or wherever. The M’s are deliberately making themselves more expensive to the fans most likely to go for other choices, while the people who are more likely willing to pay a premium – after all, if you’re looking at the schedule this early and trying to find good matchups and dates, you’re at least informed and interested – escape the increase.

The only reason I’ve come up with is that they believe that fans will be willing to pay more later, during the season, than they are today. In which case, it’s a bet that the team will be competitive and that will create interest and demand in walk-up sales (and short-term advance purchases).

That seems unlikely, though — it’s a pretty huge gamble for the business, and they’ve traditionally acted pretty conservatively in their desire to maximize profits.

Can anyone offer any thoughts into what might be going on here?

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Price of relief, 2008

January 23, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 40 Comments 

One of the great things we’ve been able to see the M’s pull off over the last few years is their cheap, effective bullpens. They’ve tried to spend on veterans, or put Rick White into a role, but most of the work’s been done by Putz and a collection of farm system products for little money.

This is important because the bullpen’s one of the places smart teams can save money and still be productive, allowing them to spend money elsewhere. The Padres are notorious for this: they probably scout for relief pitchers harder than everyone, and then pick up a collection of rebound candidates, post-injury comebacks, and pitchers with good stuff who got unlucky, or played in front of a bad defense, or whatever. They pay them all peanuts, juggle them through the season, flipping or dumping them, and then repeat the process.

I mention this because Octavio Dotel just signed a two year, $11m deal with the White Sox. The M’s have a host of guys who are good bets to outperform Dotel this year for under a million dollars. That’s a good position to be in, even if we might disagree about where they spend the savings.

Here’s the thing about that article

January 22, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 88 Comments 

We’ve gone out of our way here at USSM in the last couple of years to talk about how our beef is not with Bloomquist, who we’ve over and over said is a decent use of a back-end roster spot, particularly on a team that can use his defensive versatility and base-stealing ability, and where a team doesn’t need a bat off the bench. He’s proven in extended trials of regular playing time that he can’t hit, and there’s no evidence at all that he would be a useful starting player at any position. Even then, I acknowledge that means he’s hugely talented among the population at large. I couldn’t hit .200 in the major leagues.

Our beef was with Hargrove for running him out there so often, for using him in ways that didn’t help the team, and more generally, it’s been with the unjustified media adoration for his scrappiness and having his praises exaggerated and pushed down our throats (Rick Rizzs being the most guilty of this among the broadcasters). And sometimes, annoyance when Bloomquist comments that he thinks he should be starting, but even then, I’ve said I understood that that kind of self-confidence is what got him to the major leagues, and it’s understandable any player would want to play a larger role.

I don’t have any disdain for Bloomquist. I don’t know him. He’s a good enough 25th man on the roster and though that skill set is pretty easy to find, I understand why the Mariners have been willing to throw him a little money for the local connection and a known quantity.

The thing that bugs me is that it conflates a realistic view of Bloomquist (he’s not a very good player) with a negative view of Bloomquist, when that’s exactly the kind of thing we constantly argue against.

There’s no connection between being more or less gifted athletically and being more or less of a person. Bad pitchers aren’t always lazy jerks, and great players don’t always have good work ethics and don’t send their mother cards on her birthday. Our evaluation of his abilities doesn’t carry with it any judgement about Bloomquist himself.

Intentionally or not, it’s a misrepresentation of what we’ve written about Bloomquist to paint it as “disdain” for him.

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