A Team Worth Gambling On?
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.
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.