Predicting the 2008 M’s fortunes
As we wait and wait for the axe to fall on the trade…
I’ve run some guesstimates, some numbers, and some simulations using projection data to see where the Mariners might turn out. Normally, those kind of exercises are interesting but kind of pointless: it’s why you play the games, right? And if I’m guessing at one thing and the sims come out a lot lower, so what — it’s not as if any of these things affects the team’s fortunes. I could tinker with the team’s lineup in DMB and run a million simulated seasons and it wouldn’t help or hurt their actual performance.
It’s more important this season, though. The M’s have decided they’re going to take a shot at the division title and are making a potentially huge long-term sacrifice for a short-term gain. It’s the result of their assessment of the team’s potential this season. If they’re wrong, they’ve done themselves wrong. If they’re right, the rewards for getting the team to the playoffs are huge.
That’s why I look at the sims, for instance, and frown. If the trade off was Jones for a World Series, I would take it — I think any of us would. It’s not that certain, of course. But if the team’s really only going to win 88 games with Bedard and miss the playoffs, or if they’re going to finish much worse than that, the long-term tradeoff isn’t worth it.
To return to the sims, for a second — I’m as inclined as anyone to look at results like that and dismiss them, but I want to be able to have a good reason to. I don’t. ZiPS projections are pretty good — last year they ran alongside PECOTA. I can argue why I think some of them are off, but as a system, it’s tough to argue with the results.
And when I took a swing at coming up with runs scored/allowed numbers for the team and putting that into wins, there are points where I could say “there’s a pretty large margin for variation here” but it was for both good and bad, and taking only the good isn’t reasonable. Lopez might resume his growth as a hitter, but maybe Sexson doesn’t bounce back at all. Ibanez might be healthy, able to run better and hit well, and Washburn could be bothered by his elbow and have a bad year. I don’t see the team is all potential for improvement, or all candidates for collapse.
The M’s almost certainly understand that given their runs allowed and runs scored numbers last year, their W-L record should have been worse than it was. But I’d bet, as some of our commenters have pointed out, that they’ve got a whole set of reasons why the win total is for real: the disaster starts, injuries, Rick White, veteran grit and clubhouse leadership. There’s a natural tendency to justify favorable luck as the product of things they did, while dismissing bad results as circumstance.
I don’t know what they think supports their belief that they can run with the Angels this year. I would bet they’re not running Diamond Mind sims with projection data, but they’ve certainly had organizational meetings over the winter where they came to agreement about all of this. And we know that they value players much differently than I do, and measure them on different criteria.
But knowing where a team is, and how it’s likely to do, is one of the most important things they can do well. A team that knows when to try to go all out to build a championship team that year or when to look to youth and a longer timeframe will do far better than one that does those things at the wrong times (and the last few years are filled with examples of the former).
I hope, for the M’s sake and my own as a fan, that whatever they’re thinking turns out to be correct this season, because they’re betting a huge chunk of the team’s future on their belief that the short-term improvement of Bedard is worth the long-term sacrifice. That I don’t see that that’s likely doesn’t mean it won’t happen, or that I’m not hoping they’re right.