The Template For Success in 2009

Dave · February 2, 2009 at 9:41 am · Filed Under Mariners 

We’ve talked a lot so far this winter about how well we think the new regime has handled the roster, rebuilding with quality young major league talents, finding low cost players with real upside, and aligning the team so that the defense complements the pitching staff. However, questions still remain about how the team is going to score runs, and ultimately, win games. Can you contend with a shortage of offense, a good defense, and mediocre pitching?

The 2003 Mariners say that you can. Six years ago, the Mariners ran out a line-up of defense-first position players and surrounded them with an average rotation and turned it into 93 wins. Seriously, take a look at some of the production the M’s got that year.

Catcher (Wilson/Davis): .235/.276/.354 in 610 PA
Third Base (Cirillo/McLemore): .243/.321/.340 in 654 PA
Left Field (Winn/McLemore): .277/.330/.401 in 687 PA
First Base (Olerud): .265/.361/.389 in 701 PA

The Mariners got a combined 42 home runs and a .372 SLG% from those four positions. They had a first baseman with no power, a left fielder with no power, and got nothing offensively from either catcher or third base. Ichiro had the third highest slugging percentage among the starting nine. Ichiro!

The offense was essentially Bret Boone (.387 wOBA), Edgar Martinez (.386 wOBA), five guys right around league average (Cameron, Ichiro, Winn, Olerud, and Guillen), and two huge holes. The team hit 139 home runs, 13th out of 14 AL teams, and only 2 HR ahead of the least powerful team, Tampa Bay.

Despite the lack of power and only two guys who could claim to have had legitimately good offensive seasons, the team scored 795 runs. Boone going nuts and Edgar’s last stand, mixed with a bunch of guys who didn’t have any power but didn’t make a lot of outs, along with two black holes in the line-up added up to an above average offense.

However, the strength of the team wasn’t at the plate, but instead, at the field. They were the best defensive team in baseball, racking up a +52 UZR. Thanks to their outstanding gloves, the team had the second best ERA in the American League despite a pretty mediocre pitching staff. The rotation just wasn’t that good – Pineiro (3.93 FIP), Moyer (4.01 FIP), Meche (4.79 FIP), Garcia (4.82 FIP), and Franklin (5.17 FIP) comprised a group of a pair of decent mid-rotation starters and three guys who were on the fringes of being bounced from the rotation entirely.

However, the M’s got a 3.92 ERA from the rotation despite their 4.54 FIP. The Winn-Cameron-Ichiro outfield made mediocre pitchers look excellent, and the team kept runs off the board as well as any in the American League. By only allowing 3.9 runs per game, the M’s won a lot of low scoring contests, making up with their gloves what they lacked with their bats.

13th in the league in home runs. A 4.54 FIP from their starting pitchers. 93 wins.

The 2009 Mariners aren’t going to score 800+ runs. They might not score 700+ if the team doesn’t land one more quality hitter. But, if they commit to running out a Chavez-Gutierrez-Ichiro outfield and the middle infield gives some better glove performances (either by improvement or by more innings for Cedeno), this defense has a chance to be very, very good. The pitching on this team is better than the pitching that was the ’03 staff. There’s run prevention talent on this roster.

If the Mariners are going to contend this year, it’s going to look a lot like 2003.

Comments

68 Responses to “The Template For Success in 2009”

  1. terry on February 2nd, 2009 9:48 am

    Yes and the 2003 Ms were legit. They weren’t lucky in 1 run games and they actually won 4 games fewer than their pythag suggested they shouldve.

    A great defense just makes your baseball look better. I look forward to watching it.

  2. coasty141 on February 2nd, 2009 9:57 am

    Here is to hoping Washburn pulls a 2003 Ryan Franklin!

  3. MarinerDan on February 2nd, 2009 10:00 am

    Interesting.

    Certainly, no one on this year’s team will come anywhere close to the .386 wOBA of Boone or Martinez.

    But, with better pitching than 2003 and possibly equivalent defense, maybe there is a chance that the team can win 85-87 games.

  4. joealb1 on February 2nd, 2009 10:06 am

    I LOVE DEFENSE! I think if Yuni really is busting his tail with Raul and comes close to being the Yuni of 2006 the M’s will be fun to watch.

  5. Sportszilla on February 2nd, 2009 10:07 am

    As MarinerDan said, this team has no one who looks likely to come close to a .380+ wOBA (besides maybe Branyan, but we’ll have to see if he can do it over 400 PA). This might be a great outfield defense, but the guys in the middle infield are nothing special, and it’s hard to know what the 1B defense will look like.

    I like this team. I think they’ll be surprisingly competitive. I’m positive we’re headed in the right direction. But I’m also fairly certain that there will be plenty of times we bemoan the fact that, as good a defense as we have, we can’t score enough runs to win.

  6. CCW on February 2nd, 2009 10:08 am

    One thing 2003 had that the current M’s will not have is OBP. Even with Olerud and Edgar on the decline, they could get on base. 2003 had guys like Guillen and Cammy and Winn and McLemore, who would take a pitch here and there (as contrasted with Yuni and Gutierrez and Chavez and Lopie, who are a little bit hacktastic).

    So, I’d say 2009 has better starting pitching, but the offense just won’t be as good as 2003.

  7. BLYKMYK44 on February 2nd, 2009 10:08 am

    I know that top closers are pretty overrated. However, on a team like this (low scoring affairs) is a stronger bullpen/closer more or less important?

    Or, is the assumption that the defense that helps the starters so much will also make the bullpen pitchers play above their expected levels of performance?

  8. mymrbig on February 2nd, 2009 10:09 am

    Good stuff.

    The 2009 rotation definitely looks much better than 2003 (assuming Bedard is healthy). Felix and Bedard will probably be better than Pineiro or Moyer (and will certainly miss more bats). And with so many rotation candidates, you just have to figure the back 3 guys will be at least equal to the back 3 guys from 2003. Heck, Washburn and Silva are have very consistent FIPs that are a slight improvement on the Meche/Garcia/Franklin trifecta. So the rotation should be an obvious improvement.

    The M’s really need some improved defense in the middle infield. That could be one of the big things that holds the club back.

    And the offense definitely doesn’t have a BOone or Martinez right now. Of course, the M’s probably don’t have to win 93 games for the AL West title this year.

  9. Dave on February 2nd, 2009 10:13 am

    Certainly, no one on this year’s team will come anywhere close to the .386 wOBA of Boone or Martinez.

    There’s not a certainty at all. Beltre probably has a 10-15% chance of putting up a .380ish wOBA. Clement is probably 5-10%. Longshots, obviously, but not out of the range of possibility.

    But, with better pitching than 2003 and possibly equivalent defense, maybe there is a chance that the team can win 85-87 games.

    The defense probably won’t be as good. The outfield defense could be if Chavez plays a lot, but the infield defense isn’t going to be nearly as good. It might not even be above average unless Yuni takes a big step forward.

    And there’s definitely “a chance” that the team could win 85-87 games. Right now, I have them as a 78 win true talent team, which gives them about a 9% chance of winning 86+. If they add Abreu or comparable hitter, that pushes them to ~80 wins and a ~17% chance of winning 86+ games.

  10. coasty141 on February 2nd, 2009 10:19 am

    The 2003 team did score 795 runs. Thats is higher than I think anyone would project from this sqaud. They gave up 637. That was a pretty good team.

    Dave, Is ERA+ worth looking at from a team run prevention stand point?

  11. Mike Snow on February 2nd, 2009 10:22 am

    Beltre probably has a 10-15% chance of putting up a .380ish wOBA.

    It is his contract year, after all.

  12. diderot on February 2nd, 2009 10:27 am

    It is his contract year, after all.

    Has THT or anyone else ever done research to find out if the ‘contract year’ phenomenon actually exists in a general sense?

  13. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on February 2nd, 2009 10:40 am

    this team has no one who looks likely to come close to a .380+ wOBA (besides maybe Branyan, but we’ll have to see if he can do it over 400 PA).

    Most wishful thinking I’ve ever heard. I’ll be suprised if we get anything more than Russ Davis-like offensive production out of Branyan. I don’t understand why so many M’s fans think he’ll be such a great addition. The guy is 33 with a consistent history. No what that history isn’t? Big numbers. Not trying to rain ont he ahppy M’sz parade, I’m just saying we’ll need to find our offense elsewhere.

  14. joser on February 2nd, 2009 10:47 am

    A great defense just makes your baseball look better. I look forward to watching it.

    I agree. Unfortunately, a lot of fans are like that guy who posted here a few days ago — people who grew up watching Griffey and Edgar and Buhner hit dingers in the Kingdome, people who only think baseball is exciting when runs are scoring and balls are landing in the bleachers. There are a lot of those fans and they buy a lot of tickets.

    Now, winning games counts for a lot, and if this team sticks around .500 or better for a good chunk of the season it’ll bring some of them back regardless. But they’ll still complain about a dull style of play and a “boring” team unless, or even if, we get web-gem catches out of this outfield on a regular basis (which is something I’m looking forward to).

  15. srp on February 2nd, 2009 10:49 am

    Most wishful thinking I’ve ever heard.

    Well, in 152 PAs last year, he put up a .383 wOBA, and the four projections for 2009 have him between .337 and .359. So, sure, it’s not likely that he’ll produce a .380 wOBA this year in more at bats, but I wouldn’t say he’s the most unlikely candidate on the team to do so by any means.

  16. robbbbbb on February 2nd, 2009 10:53 am

    This particular post brings to light a question I’ve been meaning to ask: How big of an effect is the interplay between the pitching staff and the defense?

    If we get 200 innings each out of Felix and Bedard, then that’s two high-strikeout pitchers. That depresses the value of the defense behind them, by granting them fewer opportunities. It’s all well and good to say, “+50 UZR behind a better pitching staff = better team,” and I agree. However, at some point you get diminishing returns on the quality of the defense and pitching staff.

    I guess what I’m pontificating is: “How big of an effect is this?”

  17. Mike Snow on February 2nd, 2009 10:53 am

    Has THT or anyone else ever done research to find out if the ‘contract year’ phenomenon actually exists in a general sense?

    I believe Dayn Perry covered it in one of the Baseball Prospectus volumes, giving it a qualified yes, and there have been some more formal attempts by economists to look at the phenomenon, with mixed conclusions. It may be there, but probably not too strong and difficult to properly isolate. My comment was more because of Beltre’s own history, as basically the poster boy of guys who had huge walk years to earn themselves big paydays.

  18. MarinerDan on February 2nd, 2009 10:58 am

    My comment was more because of Beltre’s own history, as basically the poster boy of guys who had huge walk years to earn themselves big paydays.

    Of course, once you’ve made a major payday — say, to the tune of $60M — maybe you don’t have quite as strong an incentive the next time around as you did before you’d pocketed about $35M after taxes.

  19. scott19 on February 2nd, 2009 10:59 am

    Here is to hoping Washburn pulls a 2003 Ryan Franklin!

    Yes, but can he throw 5-6 different pitches “effectively” like the marvelous Frankie could?

  20. terry on February 2nd, 2009 11:05 am

    Thing about contract years this season is that it’s likely that players still might be looking at pay cuts in the FA market following this season.

  21. diderot on February 2nd, 2009 11:16 am

    maybe you don’t have quite as strong an incentive

    Yes, this is sort of the heart of my question. The assumption is that a player will ‘try’ harder in order to land a bigger contract.
    But that assumes that ‘trying’ in a normal athletic sense will make a baseball player better. Generally, it seems like swinging harder or pitching ‘harder’ has a negative effect, not a positive one. And this seems contrary to some other sports, where actually committing to rebounding or getting to the quarterback might make a positive difference.

    And I agree that there may never be a better ‘contract’ year than Beltre’s. But overall, I wonder if this is more like the adage that a player who makes a great third out on defense is disproportionately the leadoff hitter in the next at bat. I’ve read that it’s been disproven statistically, but when it does happen, it’s memorable and leads to a general perception.

  22. diderot on February 2nd, 2009 11:25 am

    Here is to hoping Washburn pulls a 2003 Ryan Franklin!

    Here’s hoping Bedard pulls a 2007 Bedard. That’s my personal pipe dream:
    We’re three games out at the all star break…Bedard is 11-2 with a FIP under three…and it’s all built on pitching and defense.
    Do we move him for prospects and shift RRS into the rotation…or keep him and roll the dice?
    Man, that’s the problem I want to have…

  23. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on February 2nd, 2009 11:27 am

    Good timing dave

  24. Colm on February 2nd, 2009 11:41 am

    “the infield defense isn’t going to be nearly as good.”

    I think that’s the crux of the difference. Olerud/Boone/Guillen/Cirillo gave the Mariners three excellent gloves out of four positions.

    Platoon/Lopez/Yuni/Beltre – notwithstanding Beltre’s heroics – just won’t stop as many grounders.

    But, thanks for making the case that this team could contend, since I think that was the point.

  25. TumwaterMike on February 2nd, 2009 11:42 am

    [deleted, start your own blog if you want to post random thoughts]

  26. Dave on February 2nd, 2009 11:49 am

    Off topic? Check
    Rosterbation? Check
    Stupid assumption about the blog? Check

    Congratulations – you just wrote a few hundred words and created a completely useless comment.

  27. Typical Idiot Fan on February 2nd, 2009 11:49 am

    Good timing dave

    No, that article didn’t make me barf or anything.

    I love how Street knocks Lopez’s range but doesn’t say anything about Yuni. What inconsistent and shoddy reporting.

  28. scott19 on February 2nd, 2009 11:49 am

    Kinda sad when we’re looking at 76-86 as a ray of sunshine, but…

  29. joser on February 2nd, 2009 11:53 am

    Kinsler and Young were the best double-play combination? And Yuni-Lopez were second? Somehow I don’t think this is a list that’s telling us what Street thinks it is.

  30. Evan on February 2nd, 2009 11:54 am

    Yes, but can he throw 5-6 different pitches “effectively” like the marvelous Frankie could?

    Allow me to quote from the beautiful THT article about Franklin’s signing with the Phillies:

    “…one obvious conclusion anyone can make about Franklin when they watch him pitch … his stuff is so mediocre and so hittable that if he’s grooving strikes to everyone, he’s in huge trouble.”

  31. TumwaterMike on February 2nd, 2009 11:57 am

    [being a jerk]

  32. MarinerDan on February 2nd, 2009 11:59 am

    WOW!!! Dave you’re pretty judgemental. I guess you’re the only one that can bring up things to discuss. Sorry I waisted your time.

    Well, it is his blog, after all.

  33. TumwaterMike on February 2nd, 2009 12:04 pm

    You are right. I was only throwing things out there to think about. I wasn’t trying to take over his blog. I’ll know better next time.

  34. Dave on February 2nd, 2009 12:05 pm

    Do you call a cop judgmental when he gives you a speeding ticket?

    Read the rules, obey them, and there won’t be any issues. This isn’t that hard. Everyone else has figured it out.

  35. TumwaterMike on February 2nd, 2009 12:29 pm

    [meta]

  36. eponymous coward on February 2nd, 2009 12:46 pm

    TumwaterMike, so you’re admitting you didn’t bother reading the comment guidelines?

    No, this isn’t the PI or Times message board. Discussion’s expected to be relevant (except where you can be off-topic, as pointed out in the guidelines). There are plenty of other places where you can talk about anything your heart desires, wherever you desire. This just isn’t one of them. Don’t take it personally.

  37. ASUBoyd on February 2nd, 2009 1:12 pm

    Really interesting post Dave, thanks. 2003 seems like a pretty similar template for the 2009 team.

    Does anyone know how much of an effect the bullpen has, statistically, on a team? How good was the 2003 bullpen? Any idea how good ours will be this year?

    Thanks to anyone who responds.

  38. lailaihei on February 2nd, 2009 1:13 pm

    Interesting post, Dave. How many runs do you think we will give up this season if we run with primarily Chavez in LF and give Cedeno half the defensive innings of Lopez and Betancourt?

    I think that how the rotation comes out at the end of Spring Training won’t make much of a difference from a run-prevention standpoint because the difference between Washburn/RRS/Olsen isn’t going to be huge.

  39. TomTuttle on February 2nd, 2009 1:15 pm

    hahaha, there actually MIGHT be a “template for success” in 2009?

    I can’t believe it.

  40. gwangung on February 2nd, 2009 1:21 pm

    hahaha, there actually MIGHT be a “template for success” in 2009?

    I can’t believe it.

    Well, believe it. Work the numbers.

    Not that I expect them to come anywhere near 2003, but this team is nowhere near as bad as last year’s nor is it as bad as the casual fan thinks it is.

    More importantly, don’t you think that this is the sort of template you could follow for FUTURE success?

  41. joser on February 2nd, 2009 1:29 pm

    If we get 200 innings each out of Felix and Bedard, then that’s two high-strikeout pitchers. That depresses the value of the defense behind them, by granting them fewer opportunities. I

    That’s an interesting question. But it’s not just strike-out pitchers: pitchers who give up a lot of home runs don’t benefit from their defense either. The calculation for FIP reflects this, weighting HRs very high. Look at Bedard’s ’06 and ’07 seasons, for example. His K rate soared from 7.84 to 10.93 (a 39% improvement) but his FIP only dropped 11% and his ERA dropped just 16%, in part because his HR/9 rose from 0.73 to 0.94 His groundball rate remained the same, but his percentage of FBs that left the park increased from 9% to 12%. Of course that still wasn’t bad — he gave up just 16 HRs in ’06 and 19 in ’07. But when batters made contact off Bedard the result was much more likely to be a flyball than it would be off Felix (when Felix is good he gets groundballs at almost twice the rate of Bedard), so Bedard will still benefit from the improved outfield more than Felix will (though nobody will benefit as much as flyball-happy Washburn). And he’s pitching half his games in Safeco, so that should hold a couple of the balls that would’ve flown out at Camden Yards.

    There might be another aspect, too. I would think knowing that a good defense is behind you might make things easier even for high-k pitchers, if only as psychological safety net (and a real one on days they don’t have their best stuff).

    Most wishful thinking I’ve ever heard.

    C’mon, this isn’t even the most wishful thinking that’s been posted in threads I know you’ve read. I’m all for a little rhetorical hyperbole, but this is easily the most hyperbolic thing ever stated by anyone in the history of the universe.

  42. BobbyAyalaFan4Life on February 2nd, 2009 1:34 pm

    Most wishful thinking I’ve ever heard.

    C’mon, this isn’t even the most wishful thinking that’s been posted in threads I know you’ve read. I’m all for a little rhetorical hyperbole, but this is easily the most hyperbolic thing ever stated by anyone in the history of the universe.

    True…
    How about, “Among the most wishful thinking I’ve ever heard.”
    I’d say that’s a fair descriptor for Branyan’s chances of reaching a .380+wOBA. I’m thinking .340ish tops (which his career stats back up).

  43. decatur7 on February 2nd, 2009 1:36 pm

    Dave said our rotation will be much better this year, and I’ll happily agree. But most projections have keep Bedard, Morrow, and RRS’s innings below 150 if they start (one fragile guy, two bullpen-to-rotation converts). If that’s the case, why not use six starters, but keep Felix pitching every fifth game while rotating the other five guys through four slots? I have no idea if this has been done before. It might look like this:

    rd1 rd2 rd3 rd4 rd5 rd 1…
    #1 Felix Felix Felix Felix Felix Felix
    #2 Bdrd Olsn RRS Slva Mrrw Bdrd
    #3 Mrrw Bdrd Olsn RRS Slva Mrrw
    #4 Slva Mrrw Bdrd Olsn RRS Slva
    #5 RRS Slva Mrrw Bdrd Olsn RRS

    off: Olsn RRS Slva Mrrw Bdrd Olsn

    Washburn (please, God, no) and Feireband are also options

    With the M’s playing 6 times per week (1 off day/week), Felix would usually start on 5 days’ rest (once a month on 4 days rest), while the other five starters would usually start on 6 days’ rest (once a month on 7 days’ rest).

    We could do this with Washburn (please dump him)or Feieraband too. If someone gets hurt, we could either plug in Feiereband or someone or just move to a five-man rotation without a hitch because everyone is always well-rested. But maybe this is just too “not the way the game is played” to be worth the outcry it would spark among Steve Kelly and Pravda types.

    But here’s what its numbers might look like (ripped off from Dave and Fangraphs)

    #1 Felix: 31 GS, 200 innings, 3.5 FIP, 4.4 wins
    #2 *Bedard: 21 GS, 130 Innings, 3.7FIP, 2.5wins
    #3 *Morrow: 22 GS, 130 innings, 4.4 FIP, 1.4 wins
    #4 Silva: 31 GS 180 Innings, 4.8 FIP, 1.1 wins
    #5 Garret Olsen 29 GS, 155 Inn, 4.7 FIP, 1.6 wins
    #6 RRS: 26 GS, 145 innings, 4.2 FIP, 1.9 wins (?)

  44. joser on February 2nd, 2009 1:38 pm

    Not that I expect them to come anywhere near 2003, but this team is nowhere near as bad as last year’s nor is it as bad as the casual fan thinks it is.

    And according to Pythagoras, last year’s team wasn’t as bad as it appeared (just as the ’07 team wasn’t as good). You’d expect some improvement even without the upgrades we’ve seen.

    Of course it all depends on your definition of “success.” Coming off the past half-decade, I’d consider .500 a “success” for ’09. (As would a lot of other people, judging from many of the posts I’ve seen — did you see those, TumwaterMike?) So from that perspective, yes, 2003 certainly does offer a template for success. More importantly, the moves we’ve seen this offseason, and the thinking behind them, offers an even better template going forward. We’re no longer talking about veteran leadership and grit and roles. We’re no longer talking about one season. We’re talking about a plan.

  45. bakomariner on February 2nd, 2009 1:44 pm

    You’ve got to love the new team slogan on the team website:

    “Mariners Basebal: A New Day. A New Way.”

    They do have a plan in place, and it appears that it’s the way to go…

  46. joser on February 2nd, 2009 1:45 pm

    I’m sure Dave will update his projection when we have a better sense of who will be doing what; he only gave 75 IPs to RRS (and just 60 to the now-departed Heilman). At this point we don’t even know if Olsen will start the season anywhere but in Tacoma, right? RRS might well be the #6th starter if somebody gets hurt/traded, so perhaps you want to leave him in the pen and not run up his innings early?

  47. decatur7 on February 2nd, 2009 1:58 pm

    I think “A New Day, A New Way” is a really beautiful slogan too. The only thing that makes me uneasy is that, on The Wire, everyone said “It’s a new day in Baltimore” when Carcetti was elected. But the city budget crashes and everything goes to hell. Similarly, I have this crazy fear that Lincoln might just decide he wants the budget to be $60 mil overnight or something. GMZ seems like a dream that I might awake from. It seems too good to be true. But I guess good management can happen in Tampa, maybe it can happen here too.

  48. joser on February 2nd, 2009 2:02 pm

    Though I have to say, the persistent and relentless positivity on this blog sickens me. It’s almost as if the people who run this site will only be happy if the team wins, because it would prove them right.

    Ponies!

  49. jvalentine on February 2nd, 2009 2:30 pm

    If i remember correctly the 2003 bullpen was pretty outstanding. Shiggy had a career year with alot of great appearances by Mateo, Rhodes, Nelson, Soriano and Sasaki. This probably has to do with the great defense behind them.

    It should be interesting to see how the combo of Batista, Lowe, Jimenez, Aarsdma, Olson and Walker can do this year. If the defense plays as projected you might expect something similar to 2003. However, this is, im my opinion is the weakest part of the team. Alot of young arms that will get a serious chance to prove thier worth. Will be exciting to watch because of thier up-side but could also be the soft spot on the roster.

  50. awestby51 on February 2nd, 2009 2:43 pm

    Carlos Silva

    2007 FIP: 4.24
    2008 FIP: 4.63

    Twins 2007 UZR: 16.3
    Mariners 2008 UZR: -32.8

    According to fangraphs, Silva was worth 13.4 mil in 2007, and only 6.6 mil in 2008. Putting him in front of a potential 50+ UZR defense could make him tradeable.

  51. eponymous coward on February 2nd, 2009 2:57 pm

    This is basically a .500 team. The “path to success”, as it were, is a little bit of luck for the team where we get into an 85 win range, plus a down year for the division- basically, we need the 2009 AL West to look a lot like the 2006 NL Central, or 2005 or 2008 NL West.

    Since full seasons in 1996, there’s only been one year where the AL West winner has failed to win 90 (1998), but it’s a new year.

  52. Breadbaker on February 2nd, 2009 3:26 pm

    The number that stands out (which of these is unlike the others) in the four positions where we got minimal offense in 2003 is still Olerud’s OBA. Carlos always also had a good OBA (.359 in 2003) as well. Dave describes it as not making a lot of outs, but I’d say that the characteristics of that team were getting to a lot of balls, handling them well and getting on base. The teams OBA of .344 was fourth in the league.

    I’d love to have all of those characteristics in 2009, because they’re all good foundations to build on.

  53. galaxieboi on February 2nd, 2009 3:36 pm

    Though I have to say, the persistent and relentless positivity on this blog sickens me. It’s almost as if the people who run this site will only be happy if the team wins, because it would prove them right.

    Ponies!

    Bees!

  54. wabbles on February 2nd, 2009 4:24 pm

    The thing I remember the most about that season (besides the low 65 errors) was that we were MORE than 35 games above .500 at one point (116 wins) in the second half but then finished only 12 games over (93 wins).

  55. Chase on February 2nd, 2009 4:59 pm

    I don’t have any new fancy numbers to throw out, just what I know. I have a hard time seing the comparison. The 2003 team had older guy’s that knew how to win close games. We are loaded with young guy’s with “alot of upside” and not much experiance.

    The bullpen was great in 2003. Can anyone explain to me with your numbers how this bullpen we have right now isn’t going to be one of the worst in the league?

    The only way this team does anything this year is if the West is horrible and we win alot of close games. I don’t see either happening like everyone else does. Angels still look alot better than us even with all of our upside.

    What am I missing here? This team looks horrible to me besides our SP. I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe I just need to spin it another way…that’s the new thing right?

  56. wabbles on February 2nd, 2009 5:06 pm

    If i remember correctly the 2003 bullpen was pretty outstanding. Shiggy had a career year with alot of great appearances by Mateo, Rhodes, Nelson, Soriano and Sasaki. This probably has to do with the great defense behind them.

    Yes, that was the final year of that Nelson-Rhodes-Sasaki-SIT BACK DOWN! bullpen.

  57. Dave on February 2nd, 2009 5:51 pm

    I don’t have any new fancy numbers to throw out, just what I know. I have a hard time seing the comparison. The 2003 team had older guy’s that knew how to win close games. We are loaded with young guy’s with “alot of upside” and not much experiance.

    Experience is remarkably overrated. Old or young doesn’t matter. Good or bad matters.

    The bullpen was great in 2003. Can anyone explain to me with your numbers how this bullpen we have right now isn’t going to be one of the worst in the league?

    Sure, the bullpen was good. But you know who the best reliever in the ’03 bullpen was? Rafael Soriano, an inexperienced pitcher who hadn’t proven anything in the majors before that year. When you get past ERA, you can see that this current group is a talented bunch that can miss bats, get groundballs, and protect leads. The bullpen is a lot better than you think.

    What am I missing here? This team looks horrible to me besides our SP. I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe I just need to spin it another way…that’s the new thing right?

    You’re missing that the team isn’t horrible. If you evaluate a team by experience, winning character, and ERA, the Rays would have looked like crap to you before last year too. There’s better ways to understand how baseball works now.

  58. Chase on February 2nd, 2009 7:53 pm

    I realize old or young doesn’t really matter. I do know that experience and mental toughness is an important part of baseball and you can’t do that with numbers. If you knew the Ray’s were going to be good last year I would change my mind about sabermetrics and maybe even buy a Bill James book.

    I looked at FIP for the first time and it makes more sense than ERA to me. Top 6 IP for the Mariners BP in 2003 were Hasegawa(3.78), Rhodes(3.27), Mateo(4.13), Nelson(3.03), Soriano(1.80) and Sasaki(3.51). For the most part those were experienced pitchers. This year our bullpen is young and they don’t have alot of IP so I know their career FIP’s are a small sample, but Olsen(5.28),Corcoran(3.93),Batista(4.89),Lowe(4.36),Walker(4.33),Aardsma(4.90),Huber(3.36)28IP,Messenger(4.60) and Vargas(5.11. I realize a few of these guy’s probably have a good future ahead of them, but your going to need to see some serious improvements and fast to get close to the 2003 BP.

    I haven’t even started on the offense, I would probably be wasting my time there. I like your articles because it’s a different way to look at things but I just don’t see this team going .500 this year. You know more than me though and I hope your right about this BP.

  59. sass on February 2nd, 2009 8:07 pm

    Lol, wasn’t it Dave who said the Rays would be at least the fifth best team in the American League? I would classify that as predicting they would be good.

  60. Dave on February 2nd, 2009 8:10 pm

    If you knew the Ray’s were going to be good last year I would change my mind about sabermetrics and maybe even buy a Bill James book.

    Okay, change your mind. I called the Rays an 85+ win team in 2008 at the end of ’07, even before they had a good off-season and drastically improved their defense. It wasn’t that hard to see coming.

  61. Chase on February 2nd, 2009 8:13 pm

    I’ll take your word for it then. But i’m going to stick with M’s BP is the reason we don’t win 81.

  62. TomTuttle on February 2nd, 2009 8:17 pm

    More importantly, don’t you think that this is the sort of template you could follow for FUTURE success?

    Hmmmmmmmmmm, building a team around pitching and defense at a ballpark where you’re supposed to build around pitching and defense?

    Makes sense to me.

    I do kind of wish we had some more thumpers in the lineup though.

    Just not at the expense of trades like Jeff Clement for Delmon Young as has been rumored and signing power guys with low batting averages like Adam Dunn for too much money.

  63. Johnny Slick on February 2nd, 2009 8:25 pm

    My question is, how many GMs around the league are familiar with FIP and related pitching stats? Or more to the point, how many are *not* familiar with them? 10 years ago you could probably build an outfield like the one the M’s have, use a guy like Washburn every 5th game, and then cash in when teams don’t look past the ERA. Is that a worthwhile angle to pursue in today’s game?

    As for the bullpen, I agree with Dave on this one. One of the little things that a good GM can do is cobble together a decent bullpen from a bunch of spare parts. To an extent I think that’s what Z is doing with Aardsma and all the #5 starters he’s picked up. Will it be the best bullpen in the history of mankind? No. Is the pen an area the Mariners should be working on improving. No, and as a matter of fact if teams are willing to toss in potential starting middle infielders in exchange for “veteran grit” (or whatever Heilman provides the Cubs what Olson doesn’t) in the later innings, this is a good year for the M’s to sell off their better-known parts.

  64. Chase on February 2nd, 2009 8:48 pm

    I’m not trying to fill this blog with nothing but [deleted, off topic]

  65. joser on February 3rd, 2009 2:58 pm

    My question is, how many GMs around the league are familiar with FIP and related pitching stats? Or more to the point, how many are *not* familiar with them?

    A year ago the Mariners didn’t believe in FIP. Chuck Armstrong apparently still doesn’t. Do you really think the Mariners were the last team in baseball to get on the clue train? There are still some pretty bad front offices out there, still well-mired in past decades.

  66. Johnny Slick on February 3rd, 2009 8:01 pm

    Given Bavasi, it actually wouldn’t surprise me if the M’s were the last team to figure that sort of thing out. Anyway, last or 15th or what have you isn’t so much important; it doesn’t matter whether Washington thinks highly of Washburn or not because they won’t be able to afford him anyway. The intended market for a guy like Jarrod is a contender or a darkhorse contender with a need to fill at starting pitcher.

    Anyway, that wasn’t really a rhetorical question I asked earlier. I would really like to know how many GMs in the league pay attention to stuff like this besides ERA. While I’m not convinced that betting your opponents will be less informed than you is a good strategy to take, if it’s just the M’s who understand this or just the M’s and Theo and Billy, then great. I have an inkling that the hardcore scout-heavy GMs might have reached this way of thinking as well, albeit by other means.

  67. Osfan on February 4th, 2009 11:19 am

    I think it’s easy to see which GM’s do not buy into modern statistical analysis. Look at the teams that continue to make indefensible moves. San Fran, Washington, Houston, Both Chicagos, Detroit, Kansas City, and, to a lesser extent, Philly (no way to defend the Ibanez signing) and the Mets.

  68. Johnny Slick on February 4th, 2009 1:42 pm

    Washburn isn’t old enough to play for San Fran. :p

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