A Theoretical Roster

December 31, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 44 Comments 

To build on the post I did the other day, here’s a slightly tweaked roster that involves adding two non-major players that would push this team into the contending-is-a-real-possibility range. The numbers are based on the CHONE projections for 2009, and I projected the playing time.

As you probably noticed, the two additions are Nick Johnson and Alfredo Amezaga. They’re projected to combine for 600 PA, so I’m not penciling either of them in as full time players, but their impact on the roster could still be pretty dramatic.

Despite all of his injury issues, Nick Johnson is a remarkably productive player when he’s on the field. His CHONE projection has him at +25 runs per 150 games, or about +4 runs per 100 PA. Even with his can’t-stay-healthy, can’t-be-trusted track record, Johnson doesn’t need to play much to help the team. Washington simply isn’t going to demand the moon for one year of Nick Johnson, considering that he’s owed $5 million and his health is a pretty big question mark.

Amezaga essentially replaces Bloomquist on the roster, and is a pretty comparable hitter and baserunner. However, he’s a switch-hitter and a tremendous defensive player, which gives the team a legitimate defensive middle infielder. Amezaga is arb. eligible, which means he’s getting expensive for the Marlins, and could be acquired without giving up a key piece of the future.

That group of position players projects out to about a 720 run offense. Considering the run prevention that the defense and pitching staff should be capable of, that’s a ~.500ish team with real upside.

Nick Johnson and Alfredo Amezaga would add about $6 or $7 million to the payroll. Based on 300 PA apiece, they’d be worth about 3 wins combined. If Johnson stays healthy, that could easily be 5 wins. And, you don’t have to mortgage the farm to get either one.

These are the kinds of moves that I’d like to see the M’s make. You add a legitimate LH bat who gets on base and a great infield glove, give the team a shot at contention in 2009, and don’t set the organization’s build-with-youth plan back much at all. This team simply doesn’t have to be terrible in 2009. There are legitimate options to win and build for the future at the same time.

Here’s to hoping the M’s can pull it off.

January 10th USSM Event

December 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

We told you hold the date – now we tell you why. On Saturday, January 10th, we’re hosting the latest USSM/LL event. The guests for the afternoon are Mariners Asst. GM Tony Blengino and Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara. These are the two guys that Zduriencik brought over from Milwaukee – Blengino is the guy behind the Department of Baseball Research that is being established and the one pushing the organization into the 21st century of baseball analysis. McNamara is the top scout in the organization, and will be running the amateur draft this summer. They’re both going to be a lot of fun to talk to.

The event is at the downtown Seattle Central Library from 1:30 to 5:30 on Saturday, January 10th. We won’t be providing food, so we’ve lowered the price to $10, which just goes to defray the costs of the room rental. We’re trying to improve the whole registration/payment process for these things, so if you want to attend, click on the button below and donate $10.

Click here to lend your support to: USSM/LL Jan 10 Feed and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Do not click the anonymous button, as we need your name to show up on the list of donaters -that will be the list we use at the door to let people in. If you’re paying for multiple people, send an email to the USSM account with the names of the people you’re bringing so that we can make sure everyone is on the list. And if you’re totally anti-paypal, send us an email too and we’ll work something out.

But, yea, January 10th, four hours of baseball talk with Derek, the LL gang, and two of the big wigs in the M’s new front office. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so I encourage you guys to go.

A Team Worth Gambling On?

December 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 57 Comments 

With the current roster, I have the M’s pegged as something like a 78 win team. Obviously, there are a lot of variables in there – can Clement catch regularly, does Bedard stay healthy, is Heilman able to close, how do Balentien/Chavez split time in left, and so on – that could go either way, so perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I think this team is likely to win somewhere between 72 and 84 games if there are no changes to the roster between now and the end of the year.

I think most people are expecting something in that 72-78 range, which is certainly possible, given the uncertainties at so many positions. However, if I’m right about the mean level of talent, that means that 84 wins is just as likely as 72 (probably a bit more likely, actually, as my 78 win estimate includes a good deal of pessimism about Clement/Balentien/Lopez, and the upside is higher than the downside with those three), and the A.L. West isn’t very good right now.

After losing Teixeira and K-Rod, I have the Angels at something like 85 wins. The A’s check in at 83 wins, and the Rangers at 82. Again, these are all preliminary estimates based on non-finalized rosters, but since we’re still in the middle of the off season, this is what we go off of.

So, here’s a question – what are the odds of this roster winning 86 or more games in 2009? Based on binomial distribution, a 78 win team (.481 win%) would win 86+ out of 162 games about 9% of the time. Some good bounces here or there, a couple close wins that the team might not have deserved, and all of the sudden a true talent 78 win club has an 86-76 record. Considering the relative weakness of the division, we’d essentially be saying that the M’s have about a 1 in 11 chance of contending for the AL West, given current rosters.

But, let’s say the team made a little bit of a splash and went out and signed a +3 win free agent – for the sake of argument, we’ll call that guy Milton Bradley – and we adjusted our projection upwards to factor in the new guy, giving us an 81 win true talent team. The odds of an 81 win team winning 86+ games out of 162 – 19%.

In other words, if I’m right about the current talent levels of the respective teams in the division, the Mariners’ chances of contending for the division title would roughly double. Is that something the organization should be interested in? Absolutely, because the payoff for making the playoffs is pretty substantial. For instance, let’s just use a couple hypothetical scenarios here.

Current Roster

72 to 85 wins – 91%, net loss of $5 million
86 to 95 wins – 9%, net gain of $25 million

Expected Value of Current Roster: -$2.25 million

Roster +3 Win Player

72 to 85 wins – 81%, net loss of $6 million
86 to 95 wins – 19%, net gain of $25 million

Expected Value of Roster + 3 Win Player: -0.11 million

if the team could add a three win player without a substantial hit to their payroll (it’s doable, but would probably require giving up a decent prospect to move some dead weight salary – Washburn is the obvious candidate), the Mariners could get themselves into a position where the odds of a playoff berth become a bit more realistic, and the upside of that kind of positive year far outweighs the economic downside of adding a multiyear contract to the books.

It’s not a sure thing that the M’s should certainly go for, as there’s lots of other variables to consider. This is an extremely rudimentary analysis, but simply serves to illustrate the point that there’s a legitimate option for the organization to view the weakened division as an opportunity to grab an unexpected playoff spot and revitalize interest in the on field product. If there’s a real chance for them to add a +3 win player to the roster without destroying the farm system or getting into a horrible bidding war, it could have a real, tangible payoff for the franchise.

It’s worth looking at, and I hope Zduriencik and company are doing just that.

Randy Johnson signs with the Giants

December 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 55 Comments 

This means there’s a reasonable chance he’ll be starting against the M’s here in Seattle in one of the May 22-24th games.

Ooooh boy.

The Best Example Of Bad Process Ever

December 26, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

Mike Cameron:

2002: +4.9 wins, 12.8 Million Dollar Value, $4.7 Million Salary, +8.1 Million Net Value
2003: +4.7 wins, 13.3 Million Dollar Value, $7.4 Million Salary, +5.9 Million Net Value

December 8th, 2003: Mariners non-tender Mike Cameron.

Cameron had established a level of play worth something about $13 million a season in the two years leading up to his free agency. The M’s weren’t interested in giving him a raise from his $7.4 million, however, so they decided not to even bother offering him arbitration, where he might have gotten $10 million on a one year deal. Read that again – the Mariners non-tendered a guy who was coming off two +5 win seasons. They had no interest in bringing a +4.7 win player back on a one year deal at a below market rate. An interesting quote from the same linked article:

“I was really holding my breath on this one,” Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. “Re-signing Shiggy, as valuable and versatile as he is, was a priority for us.”

Re-signing the 35-year-old middle reliever coming off a season where he was exactly the same +0.75 win pitcher as always but fluked his way into a low ERA was “a priority”, but the team had no interest in bringing back the 30-year-old +4.7 win center fielder. The bullpen was important, defense was not. That bad process led to those terrible, franchise crippling decisions.

The first big move of Zduriencik’s career – to weaken the bullpen in order to strengthen the defense – shows that after five years of bad processes, we’ve finally got a GM who gets it. Huzzah for Zduriencik.

Mariners 2008 WAR – position players

December 26, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 51 Comments 

The awesomeness of FanGraphs grows – David Appelman added the Win Value data we told you about on Wednesday to the leaderboards and team pages. For instance, here is the 2008 Mariners Position Player Win Values. Here’s an image for those of you who just want a sneak peak.

The M’s had four position players who could be described as significantly better than replacement level – Adrian Beltre, Ichiro, Jose Lopez, and Raul Ibanez combined for 11.8 wins added. The rest of the offensive roster combined for -3.3 wins, led by the trifecta of suck known as Jose Vidro, Wladimir Balentien, and Richie Sexson. As a whole, the Mariners got 8.2 wins from their non-pitchers, worst in all of baseball. A playoff caliber team would get between 25-35.

As for the new guys, Franklin Gutierrez was worth 1.7 wins last year (in 440 PA, no less), Endy Chavez was worth 0.8 wins (in 298 PA), and Russ Branyan was worth 1.2 wins (in 152 PA!).

Merry Christmas, dear readers

December 25, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 34 Comments 

It’s pouring snow at my house again. I remember when Seattle was known for rain. Those were good days.

For Christmas I’d love to receive the presentation Zduriencik gave to the M’s during the interview process.

What do you want in the way of M’s-related gifts today? Read more

Hey! Where’s Carlos?

December 24, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 26 Comments 

As Seattle endures another day of horrible weather we can’t dig ourselves out of, we shouldn’t lose sight of how this is a perfect example of what a selfish player Carlos Silva. He throws what, two good innings all year in a lost season and when the city could really use some clutch help, where is he? He’s probably holed up in some condo downtown, throwing bundles of hundred dollar bills into the fire to get the temperature up from 66 to 67, having fresh groceries flown in by helicopter (who are we kidding — he’s probably having trailers of Hot Pockets delivered, where a clubhouse assistant microwaves them in series so he’ll always have a warm one within arm’s reach, and as each gets just a little too cool it’s thrown off the balcony to the street where a gathered crowd of homeless people fight for their warmth and dangerous caloric value).

I’m not even saying that he needs to buy a snowplow and drive it around town helping out, though he certainly could afford to with all the money he made between pitching horribly and slagging his teammates. He could hire someone to drive it for him.

He doesn’t need to shovel snow off the sidewalks — don’t want him wrenching that back out again, inhibiting his non-existent effectiveness or something. Or for that matter, coning off closed streets. You could put a safety vest on him, use his presence to wave people away from the hills or something.

Now you might be saying “Derek, how can you reasonably expect Carlos Silva, who according to his ‘PLAYER FILE’ was born in Bolivar, Venezuela where the average low temperature never drops under 70 in a month, be expected to help pitch in here?”

And I would say “We’re hoping he’ll be an effective pitcher and good teammate next year, and he doesn’t have an experience with that, either.”

I’m sure right now hometown hero Willie “Clam-Clam” Bloomquist is out there icing streets down by hand with salt he buys out of his own pocket from markets as he goes, even though he’s a free agent and unlikely to return. Ichiro’s helping keep our morale up by filming inexplicable heart-warming Japanese game show episodes. Betancourt’s working on his defense by leading children’s clinics in snowball fighting, helping him get practice reps in throwing. Russ Branyan’s frantically trying to keep the walks clean around Safeco Field but not making much progress because the shovel only makes contact one out of every four digs or so… even Washburn’s helping the mayor’s office out with advice on how to blame this horror show of mismanagement on other people’s communication skills.

No Silva, though. But there’s always the chance the holiday spirit might still find him and the joy and charity in his heart will spur him to retire and free the M’s from his contract!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY (dooo dooo doooo, do do do doooo-doooo, do do doooo, do do do-do…)

FanGraphs Adds WAR data

December 24, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 32 Comments 

Merry Christmas everyone – as a Christmas present to baseball fans everywhere, David Appelman has added Wins Above Replacement data to all the player pages for every hitter in baseball. Not only that, but we’ve incorporated the per-year marginal Win/$ rate that MLB teams paid to acquire players in order to calculate a player’s true dollar value for each season going back to 2002.

I would say with all kinds of confidence that the Total Value Wins and the Dollar Valuations on FanGraphs are now the most accurate single number metric of player value available anywhere online. An example of how these can be used.

Adrian Beltre, since joining the Mariners:

2005: +2.4 wins, $8 million value
2006: +4.8 wins, $17.8 million value
2007: +2.7 wins, $10.9 million value
2008: +4.1 wins, $18.3 million value

Over those four years that Beltre has been a Mariner, he’s been worth $55 million. He has been paid $52 million. The contract has returned a net value of about $3 million so far, and obviously, Beltre is a pretty valuable asset at the moment. There is no way – none – to describe the Beltre signing as anything other than a success. It’s been a good deal for the Mariners in total, and it continues to be a great deal for them going forward.

Anyway, I’d encourage you to check out the FanGraphs player pages to see how much each player contributes in terms of wins and dollars. And don’t worry, this data will be up on the team pages and leaderboards shortly, and yes, we’ll be adding win values for pitchers too.

ESPN reports Teixeira to Yanks

December 23, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 91 Comments 

8y, $180m says Buster Olney.

That’s a great fit for the Yankees, really. They’ve got the money to spend and it pays off for them. This should be a huge upgrade and help their drive to improve run prevention too.

Plus it means the M’s don’t have to see him 20 games a year.

Dave vents about this move over at Fangraphs. I’m not in favor of a salary cap, but at some point, MLB has to do something to bring the Yankees back into line with the rest of the game.

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