Are the M’s the division favorites now?

DMZ · March 17, 2008 at 9:18 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

No.

Or, rather, not unless things are a lot worse than we know right now. And many things go right for the M’s, and only the M’s.

But look! A kitten!


Playing with flowers” by Dr. Hemmert, cc-licensed from this flickr stream

The pitching rotation of the Angels, the most-frequently-cited advantage over the M’s,

John Lackey isn’t going to do anything baseball-related for three or four weeks with a strained triceps. If everything goes well he’ll return in late April. Probably more like May, though.
Kelvim Escobar has shoulder issues and he’s targeting May to return to playing.

Even if the Angels put a couple of torch artists out there in their place (Horacio Ramirez is available), that’s not enough to close the gap. Between the two of them, they’ll make twelve starts from Opening Day through the end of May if the Angels stuck to a strict five-person rotation. Two of those should fall against the M’s.

Normally, figure they’re entirely responsible for the team winning 60% of their starts, and they lose every one of those games now. The swing would be from 7-5 to 0-12, 8 games.

For the most pessimistic view, take the BP Pecota-based standings. If the Angels drop 8 games, two conveniently to the M’s, that would put the A’s in the thick of the division with the A’s at .500, and the M’s still only at 75 wins for the season.

Or to get to “competitive” you can take the Diamond Mind sims I did, using the “A’s lose Harden/Gaudin all year” set of assumptions, and the M’s get to 80 wins and then it’s a race.

But favorites? The Angels offense is likely to score a hundred more runs than the M’s this year based on the PECOTA projections, and even if their rotation replacements are total disasters, they only have to push them out there for about eighty innings.

Eighty innings isn’t that much time. Replace a 3 ERA in those innings with a 6 ERA (eraisnotagreatmeasureofpitchereffectivenessandisusedhereforconvenienceonly)… if you figure the starters are currently going the full seven innings and you need to replace all seven, then it’s 84 IP * ERA = 28 runs for the aces, and 56 runs for the absolutely horrible 6 ERA pitchers.

That’s only three games difference replacing a team’s 1-2 pitchers with guys who will be chased out of town with torches and pitchforks at the end of a month.

And the Angels don’t stop being competitive if you assume that they’re going to entirely drop seven more games that Lackey/Escobar started.

To get to the Angels-are-done and the M’s-are-favorites, you need to get into even more speculative territory: that the pitchers are going to be out a lot longer and the Angels won’t be able to find anything but flammable replacements, that the bullpen collapses in the overwork, and particularly that the Angels manage to keep themselves together against the A’s and Rangers while giving generously to the Mariner cause.

Comments

39 Responses to “Are the M’s the division favorites now?”

  1. Mr. Egaas on March 17th, 2008 9:49 pm

    Hello, my name is Geoff Baker.

    This is why they play the games.

    Love,
    Geoff Baker

  2. Typical Idiot Fan on March 17th, 2008 9:55 pm

    >>But favorites? The Angels offense is likely to score a hundred more runs than the M’s this year>>

    Do you honestly believe the M’s offense is that bad? I know that the projections has us as a worse offense then last season, but I didn’t think the Angels had improved that much.

  3. Slippery Elmer on March 17th, 2008 9:55 pm

    I don’t know, I’m kind of digging the simulated seasons. One has to think that if enough iterations are played, with the right amount of injury tweaks, the M’s might just take the sim-Series this year. So much more promising than the impending season for the flesh-’n'-blood M’s.

  4. Walrus on March 17th, 2008 10:05 pm

    So, if I understand you correctly…something similar to Mosely and Santana having an ERA (or FIP for those who prefer) of over 8.00 for atleast 20 starts AND the bullpen has to explode to somewhere around 4.50 for the year for the M’s to be favorites.
    Hmmm.
    So, anyone know where Garland and Shields live?

  5. Typical Idiot Fan on March 17th, 2008 10:21 pm

    I knew there was something wrong with the “likely to score 100 more runs” comment. Matthew did the work for me:

    I approached this in a few ways, all through the use of ZiPS. The first was to plug in ZiPS’s projections into the BaseRuns formula. From there, I used my best guesses about the various playing times of the hitters mentioned above and the bench filler. The result here was the Angels scoring 773 runs. The second method to was use ZiPS’ provided runs created formula which resulted in 792 runs scored. Finally, I asked Derek what numbers he got from running the DiamondMind simulations. He stated that the Angels scored an average of 763 runs.

    The general consensus seems to put the Angels around 775 runs scored for 2008. The standard deviation is around 40 runs which is important to note. That means there’s a 67% chance the Angels score (according to our projections) between 735 and 815 runs. That’s a huge spread and it only captures 2/3 of the possible outcomes.

    The 2008 Diamond simulations run here seem to point that the M’s average runs scored was 716. If the Angel’s was 763, we’re missing about 50 runs here. I think we can all agree that the Angel’s offense will be better then ours, but I didn’t think they were THAT much better.

  6. Mo Vaughn Is My Hero on March 17th, 2008 10:23 pm

    You might want to take a look at the second sentence in the paragraph starting with “Even if the Angels…”, Derek. Also, don’t you think we’ll see a little bit of regression from Vlad, Lackey, Escobar and Hunter?

  7. shortbus on March 17th, 2008 10:32 pm

    I’ve carefully analyzed these projections and I think I’ve found the critical flaw which, when corrected, properly predicts a Mariners #1 finish in the AL West.

    The essential factor being left out of the equation: One-Two Punch.

    Oh, and pastel ponies with great big eyeballs.

    But seriously…a hundred runs worse? I thought the Angels hadn’t improved themselves much with the addition of Hunter and that, other than Guerrero, their power bats were aging. Last season’s differential was about thirty runs. Is the rest of the predicted difference due to regression of aging M’s batters?

  8. Harry Canary on March 17th, 2008 10:47 pm

    I don’t disagree with the premise of this post, but the details seem wrong.

    1. I count 12 starts through the end of April for the two.
    2. Replacing 2 3era starters with 6era starters for two months only nets one win? Really? Even doubling that, 6 wins for a whole seaon? That doesnt work out for me. I can’t name a .500 team with 5 starters that were all “number 3s” or worse.

  9. DMZ on March 17th, 2008 10:55 pm

    1. Uh huh. That’s why I said they’d make 12 starts. I’m not sure what the problem there is.

    2. Yup, my math is toast… 12 starts, 7 innings a start = 84 innings pitched. In those 84 innings, the 3 ERA guys give up 28 runs. The 6 ERA guys give up… 56 runs.

    Fixed.

  10. Mere Tantalisers on March 18th, 2008 4:25 am

    Well, of the many things that have to break right for the M’s, this is one and that’s something. And May returns are the most optimistic timetables for both, so maybe the replacements will be in longer making this a net -4 win ordeal for them. Who knows really, Darren Moseley could go all Aaron Small on us and win them 10 straight and this ends up helping or whatever, but the point is in all likelyhood our playoff chances just edged upwards.

  11. Philly M's fan on March 18th, 2008 6:38 am

    [this is not a board]

  12. Dave on March 18th, 2008 6:49 am

    I wish I had a swarm of bees to send at you.

  13. Tek Jansen on March 18th, 2008 7:00 am

    Hopefully, scientists will soon invent a synthetic field turf made out of recycled paper. Then we can dispense with the “you don’t the play games on paper” quote.

  14. gwangung on March 18th, 2008 7:12 am

    I wish I had a swarm of bees to send at you.

    Think you need to go to Sacramento.

  15. abender20 on March 18th, 2008 7:18 am

    But what an ADORABLE kitten.

    Spring training isn’t the best predictor of success, but Jose Lopez is doggin’ it. When is some hitting coach going to tell him to stop bailing out on swings just to make contact? I barely get a chance to see M’s games on TV and I saw him pop up to second quite a bit.

    Also, it’s nice to know Balentien has been crushing. Hopefully he’ll use his year in Tacoma to round out his approach at the plate.

  16. Wilder83 on March 18th, 2008 8:15 am

    15 – If only we moved Mike Morse to 2B two years ago. Then Cairo wouldn’t be on this team and Jose Lopez would officially be on the hot seat.

    General Comment – We not be considered the favorites by the numbers, but we certainly have the rotation that is going to make games fun to watch and give us the opportunity to contend. Dave and Derek provide great analysis and base their predictions on the science, not on opinion. What they write might seem doom & gloom, but when it comes down to it, they are just as optimistic as every other Mariners fan.

    What is that buzzing sound going on behind me?… Ahhhhh!!!

  17. Wilder83 on March 18th, 2008 8:17 am

    We might* not….

    Those bees keep getting closer and closer…

  18. Philly M's fan on March 18th, 2008 8:27 am

    M’s 2008 AL West Champs. Ichiro cant hit .105 for long, and will get red hot to start the season. I have an old beekeeper uniform from Halloween so I should be fine even with a swarm of bees after me.

  19. Eastside Crank on March 18th, 2008 8:50 am

    If the Mariners had corrected their two greatest defensive liabilities (Ibanez and Sexon), I would be more excited. As it stands, Ichiro will be exhausted by the All Star break from running down balls hit into the gaps. The Angels murdered the Mariners when it mattered last year by playing smart baseball. They scored runs with opportunistic hitting and base running smarts. Those skills are still there. The Mariners counter with some of the slowest runners in the game hitting in the middle of the lineup. Even the great Maury Wills would not be able to turn Vidro, Sexon, and Ibanez into base stealing threats or be able to get them to score from second on a single to left. If the Angels lose Vladimir Guerrero for several months it would mean more than losing their top two starters. They have the young pitching to last this storm.

  20. Kunkoh on March 18th, 2008 8:52 am

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people here are M’s fans; and want to see the M’s do well. Making the play offs would be great; to do that (as any objectivist would agree) we will need a lot of things to go our way. This is one of those things that we desperately need.

    Our rotation was tremendously upgraded this off season; at the expense of our defense & offense. Even with the upgrade though, it looks like we were only comparable to the Angels. This gives us a little bit more of an edge for the season in that regard; and with the way our team looks in the other 2 aspects of the game – I’ll take it!

    So my questions are; what other thing(s) would need to go our way?
    – Sexson truly bouncing back? Seems that would
    – Wlad improving defensive & offensively to replace Raul in LF?
    – Wilkerson?
    – Jose Lopez improving?
    – Pepe getting moved from DH to the bench?

    What else, and how important would those things be? I think Sexson would be huge. The others? Are any of those likely?

  21. argh on March 18th, 2008 8:58 am

    we certainly have the rotation that is going to make games fun to watch

    A few more outings like Silva’s yesterday and Felix’ the day before and the hilarity will be non-stop. Funny how that dry Arizona air only seems to be getting to our pitchers. Fortunately only 12 more days of meaningless spring ball until we can pull down the false colors and show ‘em what we really got.

  22. Paul B on March 18th, 2008 9:10 am

    I think we should all do whatever we can to spread the word that the M’s are the favorites to win the division.

    If that is generally accepted by the ownership group, then we are more likely to get a turnover of GM/manager during the season when reality pops up.

  23. derubino on March 18th, 2008 9:24 am

    Even if we stop short of calling the Mariners the “favorites”, it does seem to hold that our chances increase the longer Lackey and Escobar are out. So I’m still happy about it. Anyhow, I have no statistics or anything to back this up (always a dangerous statement I guess), but it seems to me that every single year you hear pitchers will start the season on the DL for the first “3-4 weeks” and they don’t come back until the All Star Break, and sometimes take time to get into the flow of things.

  24. Some Dude on March 18th, 2008 9:57 am

    #22 – Agreed. Maybe that’s what Baker is thinking today.

  25. joser on March 18th, 2008 10:26 am

    If we take Silva at his word and he really was trying out a new pitch regardless of the results, I’m not worried. That’s what Spring Training is for.

    On the other hand, if that was just Silva being the real Silva, and if Felix persists in the “more fastball” mantra that Mel seems to be promoting

    Well, “One-Two Punch-n-Judy!” works too, I guess.

  26. tranebc on March 18th, 2008 10:26 am

    At least there is someone on the national scene thinking positively:

    Mariners gunning for rotation that’s ‘bullet-proof’ by Bob Nightengale

  27. diderot on March 18th, 2008 11:53 am

    When McLaren says he’s, “…not going to manage like Lou Piniella”, that scares me.
    He needs to do two things:
    –stop being so damned pollyanna-ish about everything
    –when he wants another player acquired or called up, to go to management and tell them.
    Can he do either of these things? Either by authority…or temperament?
    If he thinks, for example, that Raul should DH and Wlad play left, he should make those feelings known. Doesn’t have to do it in front of the media…but if he doesn’t to Bavasi et al, I’m afraid we don’t compete.
    John–don’t be LESS like Lou…be MORE like him!

  28. joser on March 18th, 2008 12:15 pm

    Is there any evidence McLaren thinks Raul should DH or Wlad play left? He seems to let veterans do whatever they want, not sitting them when there’s obviously something wrong, letting them play the field when it is obvious there are better candidates, and always defering to their veteran-ness in everything.

  29. diderot on March 18th, 2008 12:28 pm

    Joser,
    Yes, you may be absolutely right. Others may disagree with his approach (whatever that might be). My only point is that I hope he at least goes out and fights to make it HIS team (and lineup) as opposed to what he thinks someone else wants.
    I believe Lou had the ability to not only intimidate his players…but also, at times, his bosses. OK if McLaren doesn’t have that personality…but at least he’s got to speak his mind.

  30. Notor on March 18th, 2008 12:29 pm

    But aren’t the PECOTA projections inaccurate for the Mariners specifically? In that they completely fudge up Ichiro every single year because of his insanely high (yet consistent) babip?

    Every year they project him to regress hard and he never does, doesn’t that factor into the total runs the Mariners are projected to score, a lot?

  31. Typical Idiot Fan on March 18th, 2008 12:36 pm

    30,

    Though Ichiro’s PECOTA projections are often off, and while he’s a big part of our offense, he’s usually the only one who’s way off. Besides, for the Diamond Simulations Derek ran earlier, he was using the ZiPS projections, who are more accurate to Ichiro’s production.

  32. eponymous coward on March 18th, 2008 1:20 pm

    So my questions are; what other thing(s) would need to go our way?

    The authors of the blog have worked that one out for you.

    You can add “Sexson bouncing back to reasonable performance instead of being the worst 1B in the majors” to the list, I guess.

    My problem is that the M’s have a big chunk of the lineup over 30: Johjima, Sexson, Raul, Ichiro, Vidro, Wilkerson. It’s pretty solid that if you take a group of players significantly over 30, you will see year-to-year declines in performance. Raul had injury problems last year, we all know about Sexson, Vidro seems to have gotten lucky, Johjima has a lot of odometer mileage as a C over 30. Ichiro’s probably the best bet to do the best out of that group as the best player, but maybe HE has a .310/.350/.420 year instead of .330/.380/.440.

    OK, then let’s look at Wilkerson’s home/road splits in Texas in 2007 (where he was basically Richie Sexson outside of Arlington), and his performance overall in 2006 (where he was also Richie Sexson- sub .300 OBP, low .400s power). Jeff Cirillo, anyone? I’m really skeptical that he’ll replace Guillen, even given that Safeco is kinder to lefties, and if you think ONE Richie Sexson was good at killing rallies…

    I don’t see a lot of positive upside potential for the lineup from 2007 outside of Lopez and Beltre, really, and there are decent shots at DOWNSIDE potential.

    And then we go to defense, where we still have Sexson, Raul… er… yeah, let’s not go there.

    Basically, I think the M’s have made some faulty assumptions: that they can get by for one more year on this core (uncertain at best) and that their defense is adequate (it isn’t), and the pitching is the problem (it is, sort of, but they forgot to address defense), and they can afford to trade off a talented group of young players in order to grab the brass ring (also very questionable).

    Given that the team manager has a predilection for sticking veterans who can’t perform in critical roles for far too long (see: John Parrish, Rick White and Richie Sexson, plus letting Raul play injured half the season), which seems to reflect some organizational biases, you’d have to be a bit overoptimistic to not realize this all could really derail the 2008 team. Simply put, I think the M’s are just as likely to have serious problems scoring runs at times and some disappointing defense that knocks them back to .500 or below as they are to exceed expectations and get to a 90 win theshhold.

  33. joser on March 18th, 2008 2:46 pm

    But hey, 2009 is looking all roses and, uh, ponies. Sexson is off the books. So’s Raul. So’s Bloomquist. If Vidro doesn’t vest, that’s about 90% of the players the USSM readership bitches about.

    Of course, they’ll probably sign Raul to a new contract. And Vidro probably will vest.

    Wikerson’s just on a one-year, of course. Kenji’s contract is up too. And over-30-catcher or not, that’s a bit of a worry unless Clement takes a big step towards being major-league ready this year.

  34. eponymous coward on March 18th, 2008 3:00 pm

    But hey, 2009 is looking all roses and, uh, ponies. Sexson is off the books. So’s Raul. So’s Bloomquist. If Vidro doesn’t vest, that’s about 90% of the players the USSM readership bitches about.

    The problem is that it’s not the players, it’s the philosophy that governs the acquisition of the players.The team unquestionably has a better talent core than a few years ago, but that means we’re just waiting for the next Richie Sexson/Jose Vidro.

  35. gwangung on March 18th, 2008 3:04 pm

    Basically, I think the M’s have made some faulty assumptions: that they can get by for one more year on this core (uncertain at best)

    Didn’t they do that for 2004?

  36. MindlessBabble on March 18th, 2008 3:10 pm

    So you are saying there’s a chance

  37. eponymous coward on March 18th, 2008 3:43 pm

    Didn’t they do that for 2004?

    Yeah, but I don’t think you can seriously assert that Felix+Bedard=Freddy+Moyer or Pineiro as the top two (and realistically, the bottom 3 are better as well), and the 2004 team was bereft of ANY position players under 30 when it was rolled out on Opening Day- the 2008 M’s have Yuni, Beltre and Lopez.

    That’s why I said the talent core is BETTER than a few years ago, but “better” isn’t the same as “one of the four best teams in the AL”. I think evaluating them as an around-.500 team that could get lucky and hit 90 wins, and could also stumble to 70-75 wins is about right.

  38. msb on March 18th, 2008 4:49 pm

    Of course, they’ll probably sign Raul to a new contract.

    say, where are we in the “Raul’s new deal” pool?

  39. gwangung on March 19th, 2008 6:56 am

    Yeah, but I don’t think you can seriously assert that Felix+Bedard=Freddy+Moyer or Pineiro as the top two (and realistically, the bottom 3 are better as well), and the 2004 team was bereft of ANY position players under 30 when it was rolled out on Opening Day- the 2008 M’s have Yuni, Beltre and Lopez.

    That’s why I said the talent core is BETTER than a few years ago, but “better” isn’t the same as “one of the four best teams in the AL”. I think evaluating them as an around-.500 team that could get lucky and hit 90 wins, and could also stumble to 70-75 wins is about right

    Not disagreeing, but I think my point was that the same processes that operated in 2004 are still operating now. And that kind of strategic thinking is going to lead to perceived underperformance.

    And the club is going to sit back and wonder what went wrong…

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