Resource Allocation

Dave · May 30, 2008 at 12:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

When looking at the Mariners roster and their performance to date, there are two aspects of the team that need significant improvement; scoring runs and defense.

The Mariners are scoring 4.02 runs per game (compared to a league average of 4.4 runs per game), and even after adjusting for Safeco Field, the offense is a pretty big problem. Their .687 OPS is better only than Kansas City and Cleveland, ranking them 12th out of 14 American League clubs.

Defensively, they’re the worst team in baseball. The Hardball Times +/- metric has them at 30 plays (or about 24 runs) below average for the season so far, with only the Royals and Pirates even within shouting distance of that futility. They don’t cover much ground, regularly put two guys on the field who have no business ever wearing a glove, and even their more talented defenders have issues with misplays and errors.

The common link between the offense and the defense, of course, is that they’re the same players. The pitchers haven’t been as good as expected, but the position players… well, they suck. The Royals are the only team in baseball that have a worse starting nine than the Mariners, and they aren’t running a $117 million payroll while trying to contend for the playoffs.

We know that run scoring and run prevention are both really close to 50% of winning baseball (despite what you hear about pitching winning championships – it’s good teams that can do both that win titles). We also know that defense is about 25 to 30% of run prevention, with pitchers making up the rest of that total. So, we could say that a breakdown of win importance would look something like this:

Offense: 50%
Pitching: 35%
Defense: 15%

You can fiddle with the numbers a bit if you want, but you can’t stray too far from that general guideline. And, when you look at it, you’ll notice one obvious conclusion – position players are responsible for something like sixty-five percent of winning. Position players matter almost twice as much as their pitching brethren. Pitchers simply don’t have the same impact on wins and losses, because they only impact part of the half, while the position players impact the whole of one half and part of the other. Good teams have good position players, because they matter a lot more than pitchers.

The Mariners even admit this is true in their actions, even if they won’t do it with words. Of the $117 million they are spending on payroll this year, $72.3 million of that (62%) is dedicated to the team’s position players. Think about that for a second – the position players that are responsible for third worst in AL offense and worst in baseball defense are collecting $72 million this year. That figure is higher than the total team payrolls for the Rockies, Rangers, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Royals, Twins, Nationals, Pirates, A’s, Rays, and Marlins.

If the Mariners entire pitching staff was working for free, and the team’s salary was strictly based on what they’re giving to the position players, the Mariners payroll would still rank 19th in baseball. The kicker – The Diamondbacks, Rays, and Marlins are all currently in first place, while the A’s and Twins are both playing like wild card contenders. Out of the eleven teams whose total payroll is less than that of just the Mariners position players (the ones killing this team), two to four of them will make the playoffs.

There’s been a lot of talk about accountability lately, so to the upper management of the Seattle Mariners, I ask a simple question – how on earth are the people responsible for paying $72.5 million for a group of position players rivaled only by the Kansas City Royals for ineptitude part of the solution and not part of the problem?


62 Responses to “Resource Allocation”

  1. mw3 on May 30th, 2008 6:29 pm

    The Mariners need to pony up and pay a true #3 or
    #4 hitter top dollar. The only hitter available next year who fits the bill is Teixeira. The M’s had three such players in 1999, Alex-Edgar-Junior, and none since 2003. Edgar’s last good year.

  2. bonesbarry on May 30th, 2008 7:10 pm

    Interesting post, thanks…… And another thank you to you Mr. Samson….. I literally spit cereal across my kitchen counter When you realized you just spit in the eye of the great dragon. Hilarity. Where’s the “Buy a beer” button? Churchill has one up after like every other post…

  3. gwangung on May 30th, 2008 7:37 pm

    The Mariners need to pony up and pay a true #3 or
    #4 hitter top dollar.

    No, they don’t.

    That’s the kind of thinking that got them into this mess.

  4. mw3 on May 30th, 2008 9:25 pm

    53-Yes they do. How many teams in the history of baseball have won a world series without at least one legitimate middle of the order bat. Right now the Mariners have zero.

  5. mw3 on May 30th, 2008 9:46 pm

    53-If they had signed Carlos Beltran the year they got Beltre and Sexson or if they had signed Alfonso Soriano before last season that is what I am talking about. The Mariners pay out lots of money but they never give the big 100 million+ contracts that it takes to get a truly great slugger.

  6. Colm on May 30th, 2008 10:30 pm

    There’s a nugget of truth in what you’re saying – that the M’s would be better off paying 2 or 3 genuine stars $12M+ per year, rather than a slew of mediocre veterans $8M a year. But your player evaluation is badly amiss. And poor player evaluation is what got us Richie Sexson earning $15.5M this year.

    Beltran is going to look sorely overpaid before the end of his contract – remember he’s not even halfway into his seven year deal – and Alfonso Soriano is already starting to look a bit albatrossy. The Cubs will owe him about $19M when he’s limping around left field at the age of 38.

    And seriously? Soriano? At least Beltran can play center field pretty well. Soriano is another impatient, defensively-limted righthander, who would look dreadful playing half his games in Safeco Field. Soriano is a seriously overpaid veteran – exactly what this team has too much of.

    Sorry mw3 – your post is just the sort of slightly knowledgeable, bar-room wisdom that sounds okay on the morning show on sports radio, but doesn’t over any real analysis.

  7. edgar for mayor on May 30th, 2008 11:20 pm

    The Bedard trade was horrible, there’s no way he’s the best pitcher in baseball, the Mariners ship is sunk for 2008, and that winning streak you want them to go on would require them to play .680 baseball for the rest of the year. No one’s that good, especially not this sorry bunch.

    It all goes back to front office stupidity and panic. 88 wins + Bedard = Playoffs. Well, no it doesn’t in oh too many ways. How can the front office not see that we were not an 88 win team last year. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  8. joser on May 31st, 2008 2:38 pm

    Way to take some pitches, guys. You had them worried about Verlander’s pitch count last inning, but not so much anymore.

  9. Jason Lake on June 1st, 2008 12:12 am

    Pitchers simply don’t have the same impact on wins and losses, because they only impact part of the half, while the position players impact the whole of one half and part of the other.

    Pitchers also defend and hit. If the position players get credit for their hitting and defense, then you have to give pitchers the same treatment when weighing their impact.

    Actually, I think the whole argument falls apart with equating the value of “run scoring” and “run prevention.” Run scoring can be measured in runs scored. Run prevention cannot be measured; it’s an idea. If Seattle beats the Yankees 2-1, how many runs did the M’s prevent the Yankees from scoring?

  10. DMZ on June 1st, 2008 8:05 am

    Really? You can’t think of an answer to that question?

  11. Jason Lake on June 1st, 2008 5:03 pm

    I can think of a whole lot of answers to that question. My Top 5 would be one, two, three, four and five. If I had more time, I could continue.

  12. Jason Lake on June 1st, 2008 5:30 pm

    I apologize, I’m acting a dicktellectual here. I’m a recovering academic.

    It’s just that something doesn’t look right to me. I come from the sports betting world, where we love and respect your work, and where we happen to value pitching very strongly.

    I think my issue has to do with trying to value pitching and defense as “runs prevented,” which you can only measure by the failure to do so. Which is by necessity the same as the other guy’s “runs scored.” That’s not computing for me, and if I’m wrong, I hope you can set me straight.

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