A Team Worth Gambling On?

Dave · December 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

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.

Comments

57 Responses to “A Team Worth Gambling On?”

  1. nickwest1976 on December 29th, 2008 1:44 pm

    Dave, thank you for the analysis. I have been arguing this point with friends that the 2009 season is not simply a “lost” season and that the team actually could compete given a few more solid moves by Jack Z.

    Besides Milton Bradley, what other +3 win or better free agents are out there? Are you of the belief that the +3 win player would likely be our DH next year? If so, would Adam Dunn as a true full-time DH also be a guy that would help?

    Maybe this will be dealt with in another post but I would love to get your thoughts on who is still out there in terms of guys that could really push the M’s toward possibly contending this year.

    Thanks.

  2. Steve Nelson on December 29th, 2008 2:05 pm

    And there are those who would interpret such an occurrence as proof that Bavasi really knew what he was doing and the team was premature in firing him. I suspect that many of those are the same people who view the Angels WS team of 2002 as being largely built by Bavasi before he was forced out in Anaheim.

  3. Gump on December 29th, 2008 2:05 pm

    The DH spot seems to be the spot to fill as far as free agents are concerned. Nobody seems to want Manny anymore and might be a pipe dream but I wouldnt mind signing him for a 3 yr deal. I also believe if Bedard comes back healthy and pitches for his next contract it will lift the team to poss contend for the division.

  4. joser on December 29th, 2008 2:14 pm

    But what about chemistry? ;)

    It’s worth noting that the 2007 team won 9 more games than Pythag suggested, and 9 extra wins might allow a nominally 78-win team to take the division. Of course almost the same team lost 6 more games than it should have last year, so roll them dice.

    Personally, I think 81 wins and a .500 season — a year after losing 101 — would be a huge victory for Zduriencik and the new regime (even though it took little more than “stop being stupid”), and I would be quite satisfied with that result. Whether that would be enough to reverse the attendance slide — particularly given the larger economic uncertainties — is a separate question. But if the division ends up being as weak as it looks right now, even a .500 team might be hanging around just a few games out of the pennant for most of the season. And that can do wonders for attendance in those crucial summer months.

    That said, Arte Moreno could go out and do a deal / spend stupid money for somebody tomorrow rendering this entire analysis OBE.

  5. Typical Idiot Fan on December 29th, 2008 2:19 pm

    How’s about an Andre Ethier or a Adrian Gonzalez?

  6. edgar_is_good on December 29th, 2008 2:37 pm

    I’m not a statistician, but is a binomial distribution really the right way to analyze this? I thought that the variances in WL were much smaller than a simple binomial analysis of win percentage would indicate. That the pythagorean relation has some reasonable success would indicate that the variables which have some sort of random variable distribution would be RS and RA, in which case, given the large numbers involved, the variances in WL wouldn’t be so high… not sure about all this as I’ve never really sat down to quantify it, but maybe you could comment?

  7. Steve T on December 29th, 2008 2:43 pm

    The problem with hoping to sneak into the playoffs with a mediocre team and get lucky is that that is exactly the kind of thing that traditionally sets off the stupidity alarm in Armstrong and Lincoln, causing them to get excited and want to trade away everything good we have for this year’s Richie Sexson. I’d rather just be mediocre for a year or two and let Zduriencik build a team that’s actually good, and projects to win something legitimately.

    I would be happy to start rooting for the M’s again even if they’re still losing, as long as they’re doing it intelligently.

  8. Taylor H on December 29th, 2008 3:05 pm

    How’s about an Andre Ethier or a Adrian Gonzalez?

    Those guys are free agents[?] I don’t think they are. [They probably] aren’t available either.

    Also, adding Gonzalez would just complicate matters. Branyan would be pushed to DH, Clement would have to catch more, and Wlad would have to play the field more.

    What we need is a 3 WAR infielder – a 2nd baseman or a shortstop, to take the place of either Yuni or Lopez. Or a decent stopga[p] if we draft [Grant] [Green] and wait for him to develop.

  9. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 29th, 2008 3:11 pm

    If Griffey were to sign strictly to DH (thus negating his horrible defensive WAR numbers), how many wins would be become good for? I doubt it’d be as high as +3, but figured I’d ask.
    Aaron M

  10. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 29th, 2008 3:14 pm

    “Also, adding Gonzalez would just complicate matters. Branyan would be pushed to DH, Clement would have to catch more, and Wlad would have to play the field more.”
    Are we really assuming Branyan is going to have a key role on next year’s team as a starter? I just don’t see him as more than a bench/role player. What’s your guys’ take on how Branyan will factor in (also assuming the M’s aren’t done with the roster)?
    Aaron M.

  11. jonw on December 29th, 2008 3:16 pm

    I have to agree with Steve T. The problem of landing two standard deviations to the Right is that people tend to make themselves believe that they belong there. I would feel safer if [Zduriencik] continued to do what he has and rebuild with good trades and astute draft choices.

    I would not dream of arguing the premise of your post and it is interesting but the idea of it puts lead in the pit of my stomach.

  12. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2008 3:19 pm

    The problem with hoping to sneak into the playoffs with a mediocre team and get lucky is that that is exactly the kind of thing that traditionally sets off the stupidity alarm in Armstrong and Lincoln, causing them to get excited and want to trade away everything good we have for this year’s Richie Sexson. I’d rather just be mediocre for a year or two and let Zduriencik build a team that’s actually good, and projects to win something legitimately.

    How does “add(ing) a +3 win player to the roster without destroying the farm system or getting into a horrible bidding war” block Zdurencik from building a team that’s legitimately good down the road?

    Look, for all the sackcloth and ashes about Lincoln and Armstrong, we’re not discussing a franchise that’s had NO record of success during the time they’ve been in management (which, to be blunt, is NOT true of Bill Bavasi, who’s never won in 10 years as a GM in a four team division, the closest being the 1995 Angels-M’s playoff). In fact, the evidence so far is that when they’ve had a GM with a record of success (Gillick or Woodward), the team’s done OK on the field.

    I have to go with Dave here- with the right lucky breaks, this is a winnable division. The key is that the M’s should be very, very picky about who they add (to put it bluntly, they should be looking for the Adrian Beltres and staying away from the Richie Sexsons). Milton Bradley’s not my favorite candidate for a long term deal, because while I love his skill set when he’s healthy, you’re doing well if you get that skill set for 100 games out of the year, but I get Dave’s idea, and it’s somewhere where reasonable people can disagree (plus the name isn’t important, it’s the idea, and I trust Zdurencik to evaluate that 3 win player better than I can).

  13. Jeff Nye on December 29th, 2008 3:22 pm

    Isn’t it obvious by now that this is a much smarter organization than the one that ended the 2008 season?

    I’m not sure why people are still so certain that Armstrong and Lincoln will find some way to ruin everything, when it’s abundantly clear that Zduriencik is being given a pretty free hand to make the moves he wants to.

  14. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2008 3:30 pm

    The other thing is that if you’re trying to figure out talent to bundle with Washburn, and you want to upgrade the middle IF and corner OF/clear out some of the excess bodies, Yuni’s contract isn’t too onerous (and his rep likely exceeds his true value), and Wlad, while down in perceived value because of his awful 2008, would be perceived as a better player someplace where pull hitting, strikeout prone corner OFers do better offensively, like, say, Texas or Chicago (plus the fact that LF is probably easier to play at places like that than at Safeco).

  15. jro on December 29th, 2008 3:32 pm

    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.

    As a comparison, where did the 2007 team fall, both in terms of expected wins and actual wins? As low as 9% sounds, I wonder how it compares with recent teams who played beyond the mean.

  16. jonw on December 29th, 2008 3:39 pm

    The reason I am fearful of undeserved success is that Armstrong and Lincoln are equally at fault with the disasterous rose colored evaluation of the ’07 team that led to the trading of AJ and the farm for what they rediculously felt was the last piece of the puzzle in Bedard. They are just as capable of that over estimation now as then.

    They are for the time being however they seem to be giving Z a free hand, How long that lasts is anyone’s guess. Given a little success they could easily dilude themselves into thinking they are actually good at this and have something to contribute.

    Maybe I just worry too much.

  17. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2008 3:48 pm

    The reason I am fearful of undeserved success is that Armstrong and Lincoln are equally at fault with the disasterous rose colored evaluation of the ‘07 team that led to the trading of AJ and the farm for what they rediculously felt was the last piece of the puzzle in Bedard. They are just as capable of that over estimation now as then.

    Right, except the general manager who made that trade? Works in Cincinnati now.

    And OK, so Z doesn’t go for it in 2008, and the M’s come up as (picking some numbers out of thin air) a 79 win team in a division where the division leader (let’s say, the A’s), wins 86. So now is it time to freak out during the 2009-2010 offseason because OMG ARMSTRONG AND LINCOLN WILL MESS THIS UP?!?!?!

    Really, if your attitude is we’re doomed as long as Armstrong and Lincoln have jobs in the M’s front office… well, I think you’re going to subject yourself to unnecessary misery, because I don’t think they are leaving anytime soon. I just think the fact that Zdurencik’s talent/roster evaluation processes are MUCH better than Bavasi’s is enough to give the guy the benefit of the doubt here…

  18. DaveValleDrinkNight on December 29th, 2008 3:48 pm

    I don’t like the idea for one reason. This is the year the M’s need to find out what Clement and Balentien are really capable of. That means they need enough AB’s to show us what they’ve got.

    Signing Bradley, or someone like him, would take away a lot of those opportunities.

    Let’s shoot for .500 and see what our kids can do.

  19. Gump on December 29th, 2008 3:53 pm

    How did Bavasi get another job so soon?!?

  20. Typical Idiot Fan on December 29th, 2008 3:57 pm

    Those guys are free agents[?] I don’t think they are. [They probably] aren’t available either.

    Free agency isn’t the only way to acquire players. I’m not sure the Padres are shopping Gonzalez or not, but since they’re apparently going to do a heavy rebuilding phase, why not ask.

    Ethier I’ve heard enough reports about to indicate that the Dodgers would be open to the idea of moving him.

    The point is to try to acquire a player who would be worth around three wins and both of these guys qualify. The other point is to not break the bank or destroy the farm system in the process. For these two, the farm system would probably take too hard a hit for our liking, but they were just suggestions.

    Also, adding Gonzalez would just complicate matters. Branyan would be pushed to DH, Clement would have to catch more, and Wlad would have to play the field more.

    The only complications that would arise are IF Jeff Clement can’t play catcher.

    What we need is a 3 WAR infielder – a 2nd baseman or a shortstop, to take the place of either Yuni or Lopez. Or a decent stopga[p] if we draft [Grant] [Green] and wait for him to develop.

    Didn’t we have a big thing a while back about trying to fix what you believe to be needs instead of just improving the team where you can? Improvements are improvements, even if you still have Yuni The Suck and Lopez.

  21. Jeff Nye on December 29th, 2008 4:50 pm

    I don’t like the idea for one reason. This is the year the M’s need to find out what Clement and Balentien are really capable of. That means they need enough AB’s to show us what they’ve got.

    What precisely don’t we know about Balentien at this point?

    He can’t hit anything that isn’t a fastball, and he can’t field. He’s a role player on a good team, and that’s about it.

    Clement is pretty much a known quantity at this point too; a nice left-handed bat who we’d love to keep behind the dish, but whose future is probably at 1B or DH.

  22. Paul B on December 29th, 2008 5:03 pm

    If by gambling we mean a rent a player who costs one or two draft picks, then I would say not worth the gamble with this team.

  23. noproblempablo on December 29th, 2008 5:33 pm

    Since the Dodgers are focused on pitching at this point what about swapping bad contracts with them and/or doing the Washburn/prospect move mentioned? Could we send them some of our bad pitching contracts and a prospect for one of their bad outfield contracts and Ethier? I am completely confused by the Dodgers opening up talks with Dunn and Abreu when they already have a full outfield and Loney at first. It seems like something could get done there. Even if nothing else gets done, I’m excited about the direction Jay Z is taking the team.

  24. ima-zeliever on December 29th, 2008 5:36 pm

    Bradley scores a lot of runs per AB. About 19% compared to Ichiro’s 15%. I like him in the 3 hole especially since we really don’t have a #3 hitter.

    Come to think of it, do we have a #4 hitter?

  25. DAMellen on December 29th, 2008 5:48 pm

    How do you compare Bradley to Bobby Abreu? It seems like Abreu is the better bet to stay healthy, but I suppose he’d also cost more.

  26. joser on December 29th, 2008 6:05 pm

    I’d rather just be mediocre for a year or two and let Zduriencik build a team that’s actually good, and projects to win something legitimately.

    Well said. The goal should be the decade of the 1990s Braves, not the one year wonders of the 2001 D’Backs or the 2003 (or 1997) Marlins. That said, I don’t think the addition of a +3WAR player necessarily turns the team into the latter at the expense of the former — particularly since we generally trust Zduriencik to not pull a Bavasi and gut the farm in the chase for “one last piece.” But given that the farm system was just gutted last year in precisely that way, I’d rather the team spend 2009 chasing .500 while hauling in the draft picks, though I do despair every year that Ichiro ages without revisiting the playoffs.

    Bradley scores a lot of runs per AB. About 19% compared to Ichiro’s 15%.

    Which tells you a lot more about who was batting behind each of them than it tells you anything about those guys themselves.

    As a comparison, where did the 2007 team fall, both in terms of expected wins and actual wins? As low as 9% sounds, I wonder how it compares with recent teams who played beyond the mean.

    The Pythagorean RS/RA calculation is by no means the last word in expected wins (though it might actually have some theoretical, and not just empirical, basis) but since it’s handy:
    2008 Pythag: 67-95 Actual: 61-101 (-6)
    2007 Pythag: 79-83 Actual: 88-74 (+9)

    If you want to look at all of baseball for 2008, BP publishes that, including so-called second and third order expectations (taking into account the underlying hitting stats and opponents’ stats, respectively). I’m sure somebody has published a summary over multiple years (so we’d know how historically likely that much deviation might be), but the one linked here (in a post about those vary 2007 M’s) is the closest I can find with a lazy google.

  27. TomTuttle on December 29th, 2008 6:16 pm

    Didn’t we try “gambling” on the chance to be competitive in the division LAST YEAR?

    I know Z isn’t as dumb as Bavasi, but nonetheless, unless you can get steals in trades for Washburn, Batista, Beltre, and others whose contracts are expiring at the end of ’09 or you can get some sweet bargains on some good players in free agency, it’s probably just best for this year to go through some rebuilding growing pains.

    Of course, if a certain starting pitcher who we need to desperately sign to an extension ASAP wants to be on a winning team PDQ (hint: he wears #34), then absolutely we need to go gamble on a trade/free agent or two.

    But until I hear that, I say let the roster build itself through the minor leaguers we have and the minor leaguers we’ll acquire later and wait for the deadweight contracts to expire.

    If Z is as smart as I think he is, a little patience will pay off for us.

  28. vr on December 29th, 2008 6:45 pm

    Dave–my playing with the binomial calculator (fun!) shows that the binomial odds you post for the Mariners are for 87+ wins, not 86+ wins.

    Also, keep in mind that assuming the rest of the AL West at 85/83/82 wins means that it takes more than 85 wins on average to win (due to the variation in the 3 teams better than us). I’d guess the median scenario is 88-89 wins for the AL West.

    Which then means the Mariners 9% current chance of 87+ wins is really maybe ~4% of winning the division, and ~8% with Bradley. (Just eyeballing.)

    Definitely worth looking at, though the low probabilities make me think it’s not worth giving up significant future value.

  29. JMHawkins on December 29th, 2008 6:47 pm

    The problem I see with Dave’s analysis is that one of the other three teams in the division will probably outperform their expectations too…

    I’d be surprised if less than 90 wins took the division.

    Still, the team should be very willing to spend money to get a 50-50 chance of having a winning record. They are being run better this year, but the fanbase might not react well to another year below 80 wins.

  30. nathaniel dawson on December 29th, 2008 6:55 pm

    Bradley scores a lot of runs per AB. About 19% compared to Ichiro’s 15%.

    Which tells you a lot more about who was batting behind each of them than it tells you anything about those guys themselves.

    That probably tells you more about the player than the hitters behind them, actually. Bradley had an OBP of .436 last year, with a bunch of extra base hits. Ichiro was at .361 with very few.

  31. noproblempablo on December 29th, 2008 7:00 pm

    If I had to choose between the 2001 Diamondbacks, the 1997 or 2003 Marlins, and the Braves of the 90′s, I would take any of the above. Though it does seem more realistic to start building for the future this season than to score a one and done.

  32. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2008 7:07 pm

    Well said. The goal should be the decade of the 1990s Braves, not the one year wonders of the 2001 D’Backs or the 2003 (or 1997) Marlins.

    You do realize the 1990′s Braves went from worst to first in exactly one offseason, right?

    I still don’t think people are getting Dave’s argument here. Look, if there’s a reasonable chance at the division in 2009 that does NOT destroy the team’s chances in 2010… what on earth is the downside? We like seeing losing baseball? There’s no history of teams taking 20+ game leaps forward (which, by the by, isn’t true)?

  33. bedir on December 29th, 2008 7:39 pm

    Offloading Washburn, or Batista for the price of a prospect and signing a FA at +3 WAR is a win, for now and for the future.

    People are arguing against that?

  34. TomTuttle on December 29th, 2008 7:54 pm

    Offloading Washburn, or Batista for the price of a prospect and signing a FA at +3 WAR is a win, for now and for the future.

    People are arguing against that?

    I don’t know if people are arguing against that so much as people are saying TREAD LIGHTLY, which is something Bavasi didn’t do last year when he made the Bedard trade.

    A trade that was basically the equivalent of going to Vegas and betting everything including the clothes on your back on one game of Russian Roulette.

  35. joser on December 29th, 2008 8:05 pm

    Offloading Washburn, or Batista for the price of a prospect and signing a FA at +3 WAR is a win, for now and for the future.

    Sure, if that’s possible. But is it? What if the price is two prospects, or the aging/injury-prone FA wants 3 years and a no-trade clause? People aren’t arguing against the all-upside version of reality. They’re just worried that version may not present itself, and arguing against squandering too much chasing an outside chance. You shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, but you can’t make the future a hopeless hostage to the present either. There may be a reasonable chance at the division in 2009 that does NOT destroy the team’s chances in 2010, but it’s possible the only reasonable chance is one that MIGHT destroy the team’s chances in 2010. What then?

    It’s also worth considering that of the guys we’d want to be rid of, only Betancourt is likely to go down in value between now and the trade deadline (depending on whether he’s gaining or losing weight). The pitchers are probably going to look better by July with a much-improved outfield behind them. Selling now is selling low. That may still be worth it, of course, if Zduriencik can find the right combination of moves. But Dave put the word right in the headline: it is a gamble.

  36. diderot on December 29th, 2008 8:58 pm

    Here’s my guess on how the interview went:
    CA: How bad are we?
    JZ: Really bad.
    CA: Are you talking the 40 man roster or the whole system?
    JZ: Take your choice.
    CA: OK, what do we do?
    JZ: Stop being stupid.
    CA: How?
    JZ: Let me handle that…that’s why you’re going to hire me.
    CA: When do we see results?
    JZ: In terms of being competitive for the division? 2011. Maybe 2010 if everything falls impossibly right.
    CA: So, you’re telling me there’s no way we can compete next year?
    JZ: I’m not a mind-reader…I don’t know what the other guys are going to do. But they’d all have to fail about as much as you guys have been lately.
    CA: So what’s the bottom line?
    JZ: Play to compete in 2011. We’ll do what we can to put asses in the seats next year…as long as it doesn’t jeopardize 2011.
    CA: What does that mean? No Kenny at DH!!??
    JZ: You’re the boss. What do you want your legacy to be?

    So, to Dave’s point, yes, it’s OK to add interest and skills…but as several people have pointed out so far, there are players who don’t need more time at Tacoma to find out whether they fit into the 2011 plan. They need to play in Seattle in 2009.

  37. Taylor H on December 29th, 2008 11:00 pm

    Improvements are improvements, even if you still have Yuni The Suck and Lopez.

    You’re totally right, but those spots are arguably where we are the worst off.

    And I’ve been reading the Quiet American. Grant Green, Graham Greene, they sound the same.

  38. DaveValleDrinkNight on December 29th, 2008 11:21 pm

    Look, we all want the M’s to challenge for the Playoffs. But I’m also pretty sure that we all would be happy with a .500 season this year if it means were contending in 2011.

    It’s going to take a couple of years to get that many pieces into place.

  39. eponymous coward on December 29th, 2008 11:53 pm

    Look, there’s just no way Zdurencik is going to do Erik Bedard Two: Electric Boogaloo, just so he has a shot at 85 wins. It ain’t going to happen. It was a stupid trade, and anyone not named Bill Bavasi could see that.

    But at the same time, this is a team that’s going to have a massive talent injection come June in the form of draft picks, plus it’s not completely bereft of talent in the minors, either. I don’t think we have to be hyper-conservative.

    I also am not particularly sold that we MUST retain Wlad, or Lopez, or Yuni, or Clement, or whatever, if the right deal comes along. Simply put, we don’t have to wave the white flag on 2009 in December. We don’t want to be stupid, but why pass up opportunities at low future cost just because we have to be “rebuilding”?

    The problem is EVERY year is a gamble, folks, not just 2009. The idea that, well, we should keep our powder dry until 2010 or 2011, because then we will be set… you don’t know that. Maybe by then Billy Beane will be kicking ass all over the AL thanks to being Billy Beane AND having an actual revenue stream for the A’s. Maybe Texas will be in great shape. Maybe our 2009 draft picks will wash out by then with some bad luck. Who knows?

  40. jjracoon on December 30th, 2008 6:22 am

    I’ve felt since the end of the season that
    Bradley meets several needs on this Mariners team not the least of which is attitude. He also fills the three hole in the lineup and is a switch hitter. I believe he is going to go too high price wise for the Mariners to try to land unless Washburns contract can be removed without paying a good share of it.
    I think Baldelli from the Rays would be cheaper and MAY develop into a steal. He was a 5 skill player and is still young enough to return to close to those levels.
    Off this topic: [deleted, off this topic]

  41. CMC_Stags on December 30th, 2008 8:38 am

    Using the WAR histories at Fangraphs, I put together the following for the positional players this year (all WAR numbers are rough approximations):

    3B: Beltre +3.5 WAR
    2B: Lopez +2 WAR
    SS: Betancourt +0.5 WAR
    1B: Branyan/Morse (or Shelton) +2.5 WAR
    C: Kenji/Clement +2 WAR
    RF: Ichiro +3.5 WAR
    CF: Gutierrez +2 WAR
    LF: Chavez +0.5 WAR
    DH: Wlad/Morse/Shelton/Clement 0 WAR

    If those are close to being right, that’s a current total of around 16.5 Wins over Replacement level from your positional players. If you feel that the M’s will have an above replacement level bench, feel free to add another win or two.

    If we think those numbers are about right, then the team could easily add wins at SS, LF, and DH. Oh, and Wlad is probably no better than Chavez in LF as his fielding is so bad he gives back any gains he makes over Chavez with the bat.

    I like Dave’s idea that the team should add free agents if it can find the money to do so. The team still has not spent any of the money it freed up in the off-season by letting Putz, Raul, Sexxon and Vidro go. It seems that there is room for one or two more 1B/LF/DH type players on the roster if Abreau/Burrell/Dunn/Ramirez can be had for a reasonable cost.

  42. Omerta on December 30th, 2008 8:48 am

    So you’re saying there’s a chance…

    Bless you Dave, you just made my morning.

    I’m so happy that the conversation concerning contention has changed.

    The last few years: “Well, if we get lucky…”

    Now: “If we can tweak a couple of things…”

    …basically the difference between “falling” into contention and smart preperation for it.

  43. gwangung on December 30th, 2008 8:55 am

    Bradley meets several needs on this Mariners team not the least of which is attitude.

    No, attitude actually is the least of it. Attitude means NOTHING without talent to back it up. See Carl Everett.

  44. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 30th, 2008 9:00 am

    You do realize the 1990’s Braves went from worst to first in exactly one offseason, right?

    As a Braves fan since 1988, it was more than one offseason to build that team. It was intelligent scouting and player aqusitions that allowed the braves to homegrow many of the key pieces of that dynasty. The Braves home-grew John Smoltz, Tom Glavie, David Justice, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, etc., who were all keys in not only making that turnaround, but maintaining that high level of success. That took a lot more than just one offseason.

  45. julian on December 30th, 2008 9:09 am

    Also, keep in mind that assuming the rest of the AL West at 85/83/82 wins means that it takes more than 85 wins on average to win (due to the variation in the 3 teams better than us). I’d guess the median scenario is 88-89 wins for the AL West.
    Which then means the Mariners 9% current chance of 87+ wins is really maybe ~4% of winning the division, and ~8% with Bradley. (Just eyeballing.)
    Definitely worth looking at, though the low probabilities make me think it’s not worth giving up significant future value.

    Actually, 86 wins turns out to be about right; I simulated 1000 “seasons” (i.e. W/L totals) based on the binomial probabilities in the post, and the 78-win true-talent M’s won the division (or tied) 9.7% of the time. Bumping up the true talent to 81 wins gives a division-win/tie probability of 18.5%.

    The biggest weakness of the analysis (one which I’m sure Dave is aware of, and which would require a lot more work to address) is that wins/losses of one team are not independent of wins/losses of the other teams in the division – even if all the teams in the AL West have >= 81-win true talent, we wouldn’t expect ALL of them to be over .500 at the end of the year more than 50% of the time.

  46. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 30th, 2008 9:12 am

    1B: Branyan/Morse (or Shelton) +2.5 WAR

    Again, are we really expecting Branyan to be our everyday 1Bman? This is a guy [who's] 33 (or will be this season), has only played more than 100 games in a season twice, and has never totaled more than 378 at-bats. How this is an upgrade over Richie is beyond me. The only times Branyan has had more than 300 ABs (twice) he’s struck out 132 and 151 times respectively with averages of .228 and .232. Sure he had an OK WAR last year, but that was in just 132 ABs in situations that mainly favored his propensity to hit only righties (he was 0-14 with 8 ks against LHP last year). If anything, he’ll be Richie Redux. What do you guys think? Are we satisfied to move forward like this? Hopefully, I’d like to see us either plant Clement at first for more ABs or bring in another more viable option. Now I’m not saying mortgage the future for a better option, but there’s got to be one out there.

  47. mymrbig on December 30th, 2008 10:31 am

    I mentioned these guys in an old post, but I think it is worth mentioning again. The most obvious areas for the M’s to upgrade is LF or DH. The FA market is fairly strong in these areas, whereas there just aren’t many good SS available.

    That said, I think an even better place to look at an upgrade might be to kick the tires on a few guys that might be undervalued by their current teams. Here are some suggestions.

    (1) Matt Diaz, Braves – I have no idea what to make of this guy’s defense. Scouting reports on him when he was a prospect suggested his glove was horrible. In very small sample sizes, he was pretty bad in 2005 and 2008. However, he was very good in slightly larger sample sizes in 2006 and 2007. His career UZR/150 in LF is 7.9. His career wOBA is .340 and Bill James/Marcel predict an average of .344. The big question with Diaz is what to make of his 2008. He was horrible with the bat and glove last year after being handed the starting job out of ST. Is the real Matt Diaz the 2006-07 guy with an under-appreciated offensive skill set (solid AVG/OBP/SLG built on lots of hard contact, rather than walks and HR) and under-appreciated defense? Or is he a defensively-challenged OF who lucked himself into a few BABIP-driven seasons on offense?

    The Braves seem pretty down on him and I can’t imagine he’d be that expensive to acquire, especially if they end up signing one of the bigger names to plug into LF. If he can produce at his 2006-07 level, he is a +2 to +4 win guy over a full season. I think with that kind of upside (and a hopefully cheap cost to acquire), he’s worth the risk.

    (2) Luke Scott, Orioles – Scott has more power than Diaz and has more of a platoon split, but I think they have pretty similar upsides in terms of value wins added. Scott is another guy that never seemed to draw good scouting reports for his defense, but his career UZR/150 is 9.9 in LF and 9.0 in RF. I think if his AB’s against lefties were limited, he could still be a +2.5 win player getting 400 PA like he was in 2007. Career wOBA is .361 and averaging Bill James and Marcel gives a .362 prediction for 2009. Plus, he should be pretty cheap if the Orioles feel any guilt over the Bedard trade…

    (3) Matt Murton, A’s – I don’t know what this guy did to anger the baseball gods, but no one seems to want to give him a big role. Career UZR/150 of 11.3 in LF, though he was at 4.6 in 2006, his only season with a reasonable sample size. Career wOBA of .345. I don’t know how he fits into the A’s plans and I don’t know what kind of trade could be worked out with a division rival, but he’s worth kicking the tires on.

    (4) Austin Kearns, Nationals – he is expensive, coming off an injury, and the Nats have a crowded OF, so hopefully he would be cheap to acquire. The Nats would like some pitching depth, so maybe a deal centered around Washburn and Kearns could be worked out? Kearns’ career wOBA is .345, though that is a little inflated by some of his early career numbers in Cincy. But his career 8.5 UZR/150 in RF is for real and his defense should translate nicely to LF. In 2006 and 2007 he was worth 3.75 wins a year. Even if he fell short of those numbers, 3.0 wins should be easily achievable, making him well worth his salary.

    I’m guessing at least one of these guys could be acquired fairly cheaply and I think they all offer enough upside to be worth the marginal cost.

  48. CMC_Stags on December 30th, 2008 11:39 am

    Again, are we really expecting Branyan to be our everyday 1Bman? This is a guy [who's] 33 (or will be this season), has only played more than 100 games in a season twice, and has never totaled more than 378 at-bats. How this is an upgrade over Richie is beyond me.

    Lets start with defense (UZR/150):
    Sexson 2007: -16.7
    Sexson 2008: -16.0

    Branyan at 1B (career): 3.3
    Branyan at 3B (career): -7.1

    Morse at SS (career): -21.9
    While Morse doesn’t have enough innings at 1B to make his numbers there relavent, I think it is fair to say that he will be an above average 1B.

    So just defensively, a Branyan/Morse (or Shelton) platoon would be about a 20 run upgrade over Sexson.

    Averaging the Marcel and Bill James 2009 projections for Branyan and Morse (which include their historical platoon tendencies) we see that Branyan is projected for a .349 wOBA and Morse is in line for a .350 (though that needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt because of sample size issues).

    Sexson put up a wOBA of .305 in 1007 and .314 in 2008. Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was a .320 wOBA bat, that’s about a 30 point spread for the Branyan/Morse platoon over Sexson. 30 points over 600 ABs is (.030/1.15)*600 = 15.65 Runs.

    So a Branyan/Morse platoon would be approximately 35 runs better than Sexson at 1B. Given that a .320 wOBA Sexson would be about a -1.5 WAR player, that would make that platoon about a +2 WAR 1B (a little lower than my eyeballed +2.5 WAR number).

    Morse would also make a decent 5th OF and 3B in case of injuries. In my mind, that’s what makes him a more viable platoon partner for Branyan than Shelton.

    Also, career tOPS+ splits for Branyan, Shelton, and Morse from Baseball-Reference:
    Branyan vs LH: 78
    Branyan vs RH: 103
    Morse vs LH: 122
    Morse vs RH: 85
    Shelton vs LH: 84
    Shelton vs RH: 107

  49. eponymous coward on December 30th, 2008 11:52 am

    As a Braves fan since 1988, it was more than one offseason to build that team. It was intelligent scouting and player aqusitions that allowed the braves to homegrow many of the key pieces of that dynasty. The Braves home-grew John Smoltz, Tom Glavie, David Justice, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, Mark Lemke, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, Mike Stanton, etc., who were all keys in not only making that turnaround, but maintaining that high level of success. That took a lot more than just one offseason.

    Right, but the point being made is that if the right circumstances present themselves, it does not take years to rebuild. Please note that one thing the Braves did was add someone who was quite probably a 3 WAR player (as well as providing value on offense AND defense): Terry Pendleton.

    That’s all Dave is saying- the circumstances exist where this team could be competitive in 2009 without mortgaging 2010 and later years, if you do this right. Nobody’s talking about trading a package of Morrow, Aumont and Truinfel for this year’s Erik Bedard, signing Ken Griffey Jr. to a multiyear deal, and basically repeating the disasters of the Bavasi regime. He’s arguing you could make an intelligent addition or two to the roster and keep yourself in good position to win further down the road.

    My attitude is that five-year plans are for Soviet Union-style command economies. If you have a reasonable shot, take it.

  50. ima-zeliever on December 30th, 2008 12:38 pm

    Bradley scores a lot of runs per AB. About 19% compared to Ichiro’s 15%.

    Which tells you a lot more about who was batting behind each of them than it tells you anything about those guys themselves.

    Good point! I thought about that after I wrote it. I was thinking OPS, but at some point you are at the mercy of the guys coming up to bat…advantage Texas.

  51. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 30th, 2008 12:55 pm

    First off thanks cmc…wasn’t thinking about defensive factors or platooning. Still, I’d prefer a solid everyday 1Bman to a platoon…or branyan :)

    As for eponymous, my point was simply that the braves didn’t take one simple season (or one signing). In addition to pendleton, they also brought in otis nixon, rafael belliard and other key guys like alejandro pena and charlie liebrandt (in addition to bringing in pendleton) to make the 91 run…a little more than one +3 hitter. But my main point was that there is no true one-season turnaround for anyone ever. Players take time/ But again, I agree with Dave. I was responding specifically about the braves (as they were my first baseball love, predating my mariners courtship by a year or two). :)
    Otherwise, I think we’re arguing the same point in different ways.

  52. eponymous coward on December 30th, 2008 3:29 pm

    But my main point was that there is no true one-season turnaround for anyone ever.

    Well, actually, there’s the 1961 Reds (worst to first), the 1967 Red Sox (worst to first), the 1991 Twins (worst to first, just like the Braves), and more. Rebuilds do not always take longer than a year, if you can make enough astute roster moves and you get lucky.

    But good to know we’re arguing the same point: we don’t need to raise the white flag on 2009 if Zdurencik can make some additional moves. My wish list is basically a) a superior defensive infielder to replace one of Yuni or Lopez and b) another hitter with some breakout potential, to take the offense from where it is now (below average) up a bit (and if necessary, finding a Branyan/Shelton one year, reasonably inexpensive fill-in for the OF if we have to trade Wlad as part of a package to fill in those holes mentioned above, and the hitter we get as the +3 WAR guy is a DH).

  53. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on December 30th, 2008 3:43 pm

    Well, act

    ually, there’s the 1961 Reds (worst to first), the 1967 Red Sox (worst to first), the 1991 Twins (worst to first, just like the Braves), and more. Rebuilds do not always take longer than a year, if you can make enough astute roster moves and you get lucky.

    I know worst-to-firsts have happened. What I mean is they are the product of several years leading up to that point. All those teams involved homegrown talent that took much more than a single season to cultivate. They all made splashes and brought in key players too. That’s all I mean in saying no true worst-to-first.

  54. CMC_Stags on December 30th, 2008 4:50 pm

    BAF4L-

    No worries. I missed the part where you said “everyday.”

    I really wish there was an impact Free Agent SS out there for the M’s, but it doesn’t look like one is available. That leaves the team to either trade for one or stand pat.

    I still think some kind of Wlad, Rob Johnson, and pitching (Washburn or Batista in a salary dump or RRS or Heilman for a better player) package could bring back a large upgrade at SS. It would also open up some slots on the 40 man roster.

    With two Rule 5 players (assuming they make it past spring training), there isn’t the bench depth to do another every day platoon.

  55. xeifrank on December 30th, 2008 10:42 pm

    +3 WAR player (M.Bradley) would have to be replacing a replacement level player in the starting lineup to get a full 3 win upgrade, right? Haven’t looked over your roster, but who would that starting replacement level player be?
    vr, Xei

  56. CMC_Stags on December 31st, 2008 1:09 am

    +3 WAR player (M.Bradley) would have to be replacing a replacement level player in the starting lineup to get a full 3 win upgrade, right? Haven’t looked over your roster, but who would that starting replacement level player be?

    3B: Beltre +3.5 WAR
    2B: Lopez +2 WAR
    SS: Betancourt +0.5 WAR
    1B: Branyan/Morse (or Shelton) +2.5 WAR
    C: Kenji/Clement +2 WAR
    RF: Ichiro +3.5 WAR
    CF: Gutierrez +2 WAR
    LF: Chavez +0.5 WAR
    DH: Wlad/Morse/Shelton/Clement 0 WAR

    SS, LF, and DH are all probably replacement level or barely over right now. 2B (Jose Lopez has more walks -13- than Ks -12- in Winter League), 3B, 1B platoon, RF, and possibly CF & C are all approximately league average or better.

  57. bratman on December 31st, 2008 1:24 am

    Real exciting post – I am confident Big Z will do make the right moves.

    He has stated numerous times that he believes we have the talent to compete now. I can’t wait till pitchers and catchers meet as I am counting down the days over here on cold Queen Anne …

    Speaking of cold, Peoria anyone? Would love to get a USSM crew to roll down to Spring Training this year

    Would be interested…

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