The Measure Of Wakamatsu

Dave · March 31, 2009 at 7:21 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yesterday, Wakamatsu slotted Ichiro in the #3 hole in the line-up spot, and then said this about it.

“(Ichiro’s) been outstanding, coming in here and saying, ‘Whatever you need me to do to help this ballclub.’ It has been off the chart,” Wakamatsu said. “I’m trying to take the ego out of it with a lot of these guys and say, ‘Hey, whatever we feel gives us our best opportunity to win, we’re going to do that,’ and he’s been outstanding with that.

He talked a lot about mixing things up this spring to prepare guys to be ready to do whatever the team asks of them in order to help the team win. After years of the manager giving the veterans whatever they want for fear of upsetting those with an entitlement attitude, this is nice to hear.

The first measure of Wakamatsu’s ability to actually make this work, though, will be how he handles the Griffey scenario. As you’ll recall, I walked everyone through the math on Griffey as an LF, working on the assumption that the DH on days when Griffey was in the field would be Jeff Clement. Now, Clement is in Tacoma. That leaves Mike Sweeney as the de-facto backup DH. So now, the comparison isn’t getting Clement at-bats and upgrading the defense behind the plate, but instead is simply a straight across comparison of Endy Chavez’s defense versus Mike Sweeney’s offense.

Even if you think defensive stats aren’t accurate, there’s just no way – none, zilch, nada – to believe that the team is better with Griffey in left and Sweeney at DH than with Chavez in left at Griffey at DH.

Mike Sweeney, 2006 to 2008: 677 plate appearances, .322 wOBA
Endy Chavez, 2006 to 2008: 853 plate appearances, .315 wOBA

Over the last three seasons, Chavez and Sweeney have been comparably valuable hitters. The difference between a .322 wOBA and a .315 wOBA is 3.5 runs over 600 plate appearances. We’re talking a remarkably small difference in actual performance at the plate between these two over the last three years. On a per PA basis, the projected wOBA difference between Sweeney and Chavez is .013 runs. One one-hundredth of a run.

I don’t care how much you like Griffey, or how much you think Endy Chavez sucks, or whatever – there’s just no way to think that the defensive gap between those two is anything close to the offensive gap between Chavez and Sweeney.

In order to believe that the Griffey/Sweeney alignment is preferable, you’d have to think that Chavez is no better than +4 runs defensively compared to an average left fielder that Griffey is no worse than -4 runs compared to an average left fielder. Chavez’s career UZR/150 in RF/LF is +23. Griffey’s career UZR/150 in RF/LF is -27. You’d have to regress those back to +4/-4 in order to make the Griffey/Sweeney tandem equally valuable to the Chavez/Griffey tandem. Not more valuable – equally valuable.

There’s no argument to be made here. The team is categorically, undeniably better with Endy Chavez in left field and Ken Griffey Jr at DH than with Ken Griffey Jr in left field and Mike Sweeney at DH.

“I’m trying to take the ego out of it with a lot of these guys and say, ‘Hey, whatever we feel gives us our best opportunity to win, we’re going to do that,…”

Wak, if you’re serious about this, Endy Chavez and Wladimir Balentien will split the innings in left field. There’s no contest here – the team is worse every single time you put Griffey in left. Penciling Junior to start in left field will never give you your best opportunity to win with this roster. Never.

I understand that you’ll feel the need to give him some innings out there occasionally. There will be days when he pinch-hits for Chavez and you’ll have to send him out to left to finish the game. There will be days when one of the regular outfielders are under the weather and you’ll be playing with a 24 man roster. There will be a lot of pressure to stick him out there in the home opener, so the fans can give him a bunch of standing ovations and welcome him back to Seattle. We won’t hold those against you.

But, given the comments about ego taking a back seat to the team’s best chance to win, you have to limit Junior’s innings in left field. He really shouldn’t get more than 100 the whole year, and that’s generous, honestly.

So far, I’m extremely encouraged by what Wakamatsu has said. But, when the rubber meets the road, he has the chance to back up his words with one tough action. That action – make Ken Griffey Jr a full time DH. It’s the right move for the team. It gives them the best chance to win.

Comments

65 Responses to “The Measure Of Wakamatsu”

  1. msb on March 31st, 2009 7:40 am

    “Ken Griffey Jr. has been lobbying hard to bat leadoff, but that’s not likely.

    “I told him it depends on the size of the check,” Wakamatsu joked. “

  2. Mike Snow on March 31st, 2009 7:49 am

    Where was this guy when Sexson needed him?

  3. Sports on a Schtick on March 31st, 2009 8:31 am

    Although this is preaching to the choir, let’s hope it seeps into the minds of those running the Mariners.

    But really, does anyone doubt Griffey is going to see a significant amount of time in the outfield this season? *sigh*

  4. Tek Jansen on March 31st, 2009 8:44 am

    I will reference back to the earlier discussion about how Wakamatsu would come up with creative excuses to keep Chavez in LF and Griffey at DH.

    I get the sense that Wakamatsu and the Mariners like Chavez quite a bit, so I don’t think that he will merely be 4th OF/defensive replacement. I expect him to start at least 100 games. I could see an OF alignment with Griffey in RF, Ichiro in CF, and Chavez in LF when Gutierrez needs an occaisonal day off.

  5. Dave on March 31st, 2009 8:49 am

    Ichiro’s not moving from RF. Chavez is the backup CF.

  6. Mike Snow on March 31st, 2009 8:50 am

    I’d think it’s also better, if you have to play Griffey in the outfield, that you play him consistently in one spot rather than bouncing him back and forth.

  7. bakomariner on March 31st, 2009 8:52 am

    Tek-

    I’ve also mentioned Griff in RF in the past…it’s the least likely place he’d hurt us out there…

    But, of course, the more he’s the DH, the better…

  8. Tek Jansen on March 31st, 2009 9:02 am

    bakomariner,

    Agreed. And Dave’s probably right about Ichiro playing 160+ games in RF.

  9. Tek Jansen on March 31st, 2009 9:06 am

    It also seems that WLAD has made a decent impression since arriving in camp. (Note to self: do not drop passport or visa in water.) So hopefully he will log some innings in LF and help keep Griffey at DH.

  10. Paul B on March 31st, 2009 9:09 am

    I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Chavez this spring. At first, I wasn’t too keen on him getting most of the starts in the OF, but I’ve changed my mind.

    One other comment:
    Against a lefty starter they can still put Jr at DH and get Sweeney’s bat in the lineup at first. If Jr gets off to a hot start and they want to run him out there pretty much every day.

  11. bakomariner on March 31st, 2009 9:24 am

    Dump Sweeney and pick up the newly released Gary Sheffield…joking…

  12. ThundaPC on March 31st, 2009 9:35 am

    I seriously can’t wait to see Wakamatsu in action this season.

    He’s also made a comment a few days ago about possibly seeing 120 different lineups this season. I’m not sure if that includes lineups with pitchers or what. If not, the only time we saw over 120 lineups is in 2004 with Bob Melvin.

  13. joealb1 on March 31st, 2009 10:06 am

    Griffey should never ever start against a lefty. Unless it’s the home opener and that is only for PR. He is done hitting left handed pitching.

  14. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 10:56 am

    With all due respect, that while I agree with the logical chain, the argument is a bit of a straw man.

    I say this because it is based on the expectation that Sweeney will continue to post an OBA of .322. I would guess that that is not what the M’s are expecting, so their analysis would be different. (It may be what they should expect, but if he delivers that, it should disappoint them as well as us).

    They are obviously hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and get the healthy version of Sweeney, in which case the .322 OBA may not be the valid number to compare.

    Like I said, your logic makes sense when you use that number, but a better comparison may be if you use what you might think the M’s are actually hoping for from Sweeney – I’ll bet .322 ain’t it.

  15. Dave on March 31st, 2009 10:59 am

    If we assume that Chavez is +15 in LF and Griffey is -15 in LF, and we assume that Chavez is likely to post a .305 wOBA, then Sweeney would have to post a .365 wOBA to make it dead even.

    The M’s aren’t expecting Sweeney to post a .365 wOBA.

  16. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 10:59 am

    Meant to say wOBA above…

  17. diderot on March 31st, 2009 11:18 am

    For what it’s worth, I’ve spent the last few days watching to M’s, both during games and practice.
    First, to give the devil his due, no one has hit the ball harder more consistently than Griffey. I don’t know if that’s spring training pitching or a temporary resurgence or just natural talent, but almost all of his outs have been hit hard, too. (Breaking balls in the dirt = the only obvious problem).
    But the outfield is an entirely different story. Even during outfield practice he’s having a hard time making the first step to either side, or in. (Maybe just lingering surgery issues? Probably wishful thinking). And he seems to be taking a step too many when he does get to the ball…then having to reach back to catch it.
    So, there is no question that he is an extreme detriment to the team in the field. I could accept the ceremonial inning or two here and there (I think a total of 35 or so would be logical). But the man can not field anymore–well, at least right now.

    And for those lamenting the sad tale of Clement, remember his demotion is a straight line result of the Griffey signing. It was inevitable as long as Johjima was around.

    And as for how the team will handle the DH/LF issue with Griffey, you can take this for what it’s worth from someone in the organization–they really don’t know yet. Apparently they’re going to push DH as far as they can and see how he reacts.

  18. G-Man on March 31st, 2009 11:18 am

    Is Sweeney the starter at 1B against lefties?

  19. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 11:22 am

    I’m not necessarily opposed to your position Dave, but why would you think the M’s aren’t at least hoping for a number like that from Sweeney? I do like the fact that you’ve shown what has to happen for the move to even out.

    My point is that the only counter argument that’s even possible to be made is one that assumes the numbers you mention in your response. The M’s ought to be given credit for at least hoping for that. To expect it? Hardly. But if teams expected it, they’d be lined up to sign him. Sweeney is precisely the type of player you can gamble a minor league contract on and hope for the lightning in a bottle scenario. I’d rather have Shelton, but there is at least a case (however flimsy) to be made.

  20. Tek Jansen on March 31st, 2009 11:26 am

    “Is Sweeney the starter at 1B against lefties?”

    Well, the M’s are going to have to have one of Chavez, Griffey, or Branyon hit against a lefty SP, unless they want to have Cedeno play 2B, Lopez play 1B, Sweeney DH, and WLAD in LF, or Cedeno in LF, Sweeney at 1B, and WLAD at DH. Hey, maybe Wakamatsu can find 120 different starting lineups.

  21. Jeff Nye on March 31st, 2009 11:30 am

    Because nobody’s expecting a .365 wOBA from Sweeney?

    He hasn’t been within spitting distance of that number since 2005, he’s well on the wrong side of 30, and even the most optimistic of the four projections on Fangraphs (in this case, Oliver) projects him at a wOBA of .339. The other three systems all hover around .320.

  22. Dave on March 31st, 2009 11:34 am

    but why would you think the M’s aren’t at least hoping for a number like that from Sweeney?

    If they thought there was a real chance that Sweeney could put up a .365 wOBA (which would be something like a .300/.350/.520 line), then they would have given him a major league contract and a full-time job. Ryan Howard posted a .366 wOBA last year. The M’s know that they’re not going to get that kind of production from a 37-year-old Sweeney.

    My point is that the only counter argument that’s even possible to be made is one that assumes the numbers you mention in your response.

    Okay, let me rephrase. Assuming the Mariners have any understanding of probability, then my post stands. There is some remarkably small chance that they’re completely delusional and think that Sweeney can hit like an All-Star again, but as long as we give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re not ridiculously crazy, then there’s no argument to be made.

  23. bakomariner on March 31st, 2009 11:50 am

    Full-time platoons!

    Chavez-WLAD
    Branyan-Shelton
    Griff-Sweeney
    Clement-Joh (oops…too late now)

    This would solve everything…they just need to have an 11-man staff instead of the 12 and it’s all good…

    Maximize the roster!!!!!!

  24. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 11:57 am

    You guys are beating down a guy that agrees with your argument!

    I’m only trying to construct a position that may make some sense – a devil’s advocate if you will. FWIW I don’t think Sweeney will do this. I also don’t think the M’s are relying on probability, even if they are hopeful. What was the probability of Edgar’s regression happening later than expected? Having “delusions” may be their only avenue to a miracle season.

    Their one and only hope for the lightning-in-a-bottle scenario (the only scenario where they can have a shot in the first place) depends on him being healthy and able to swing the way he used to – or close.

    I’m aware of Fangraph’s published projections for Sweeney and they are entirely reasonable. I’m sure if you ran a probability distribution of all seasons from similar players at similar ages and history, a .365 wOBA would lie well outside a standard deviation, and probably two, from the mean.

    If the M’s are “delusional” enough to hope for a miracle from Sweeney, I will at least give them credit for looking at all possibilities for perhaps making ’09′s games mean something. The nice part of course, is that if he doesn’t give them that, they’re not on the hook for a bunch of dough.

    Lastly, I’ll repeat, I agree with your general assessment. My only quibble was with what the M’s are expecting or hoping for from him. The .322 wOBA makes the argument very clear. A miracle season from Sweeney, if it happens would make it less so.

  25. Tek Jansen on March 31st, 2009 12:03 pm

    “I also don’t think the M’s are relying on probability”

    So, are they relying on improbability?

  26. Dave on March 31st, 2009 12:09 pm

    Why is Sweeney the only hope for lightning in a bottle? The probability of Chavez having a magical, everything goes right season is just as likely, right? Chavez did outhit Sweeney in both 2006 and 2007, after all.

    I know you’re just trying to play devil’s advocate. Sorry if you felt jumped on. But the point stands – there’s really no argument that can hold up to any kind of scrutiny that this team is better with Sweeney in the line-up than with Chavez in the line-up, if that requires Jr to play the field.

  27. Jeff Nye on March 31st, 2009 12:23 pm

    There is upside on the 2009 M’s roster.

    It just isn’t named Mike Sweeney.

  28. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 12:45 pm

    So, are they relying on improbability?

    Of course they are – well, more accurately, they are hoping for something improbable (at least in this case). That’s what making low-risk high-reward moves is all about. Why else would they sign a guy who hasn’t played more than 75 games the past three years? There’s very little probability that Sweeney will be a major contributor at all – a position that you guys hold, a position that the projection systems hold, and a position I also hold. But if they didn’t believe there was a thread of possibility, then there would be no reason to sign him.

    Do teams rely on improbability? In those types of moves, sure.

  29. gwangung on March 31st, 2009 12:52 pm

    So, are they relying on improbability?

    They have a drive for it, I’d say…

  30. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 12:53 pm

    Why is Sweeney the only hope for lightning in a bottle? The probability of Chavez having a magical, everything goes right season is just as likely, right? Chavez did outhit Sweeney in both 2006 and 2007, after all.

    Point well taken. I didn’t word it terribly well, but no I don’t think they are counting on him being the only path to the ‘lightning in a bottle season’. That’s not my impression anyway. That’s why they are doing a bunch of these same types of low-risk high-upside moves that most of us are happy to see them try.

    If I had to take their side on this and if it was really an argument to your position, I would say that if Sweeney is going to do the improbable (the reason why they gave him a shot in the first place), he’s put himself in a pretty good position to do so. If he’s going to put out a .365 wOBA season, he should be the lineup to give it a shot. They can always change course pretty early on without much lost.

    If Chavez figures out how to hit, even a little bit better, that would put ‘paid’ to the ‘argument’ real quick wouldn’t it.

  31. Mike G. on March 31st, 2009 12:54 pm

    Is there any room on this roster for the newly released Geoff Jenkins?

    It’s kind of weird to have such a log jam of outfielders, a nice option for a change.

    Even if the M’s were to take the most basic look at the correlation between their early 2000′s winning seasons and their outfield defense, how could they not want to field a Chavez/Gutierrez/Ichiro outfield as often as possible?

  32. marc w on March 31st, 2009 12:58 pm

    “I’m only trying to construct a position that may make some sense – a devil’s advocate if you will.”

    I thought that was my gig. Ah well.

    And anyway, the argument’s better if you keep Shelton up. His Oliver/Bill James projections are .350+, so you’re getting into the right neighborhood (though still probably short).

  33. Graham on March 31st, 2009 1:13 pm

    But if they didn’t believe there was a thread of possibility, then there would be no reason to sign him.

    Doesn’t that exact argument then apply for Endy Chavez?

  34. Silentpadna on March 31st, 2009 1:18 pm

    I thought that was my gig. Ah well.

    Don’t feel threatened. I don’t have enough time to post here that often. I am a contrarian by nature so chances are, I’ll mostly lurk unless I feel the crazy need to stir the pot in this place. Your position is still secure, believe me.

  35. marc w on March 31st, 2009 1:24 pm

    No worries…. I think it’s good to see some contrarian positions.
    I’m definitely w/Dave on this one (though again, it’s closer with Shelton instead of Sweeney), so I’m glad someone stepped up to fill the devil’s advocate role.

  36. Paul B on March 31st, 2009 1:36 pm

    And anyway, the argument’s better if you keep Shelton up.

    I’d like that, but don’t see how they could find room on the roster. Unless they reduce the size of the bullpen by one.

  37. vj on March 31st, 2009 2:04 pm

    What do we think of batting Ichiro 3rd?
    And who becomes the lead-off hitter?

  38. marc w on March 31st, 2009 2:10 pm

    Paul,

    It’s Shelton over Sweeney – there’s no way to get a Shelton AND Sweeney scenario.

  39. bakomariner on March 31st, 2009 2:42 pm

    [Batista, Batista]

  40. coasty141 on March 31st, 2009 3:22 pm

    Am I crazy for being a little concerned with Wlad being platooned against LHP? From what I’ve seen, Wlad has struggled with major league breaking balls and I’m guessing if he gets more Ab’s vs LHP he’s going to see a higher % of breaking balls. Thoughts?

  41. Mike Snow on March 31st, 2009 3:34 pm

    If he can’t even hit well with the platoon advantage, breaking balls or no, then you move on to someone else.

  42. Breadbaker on March 31st, 2009 3:47 pm

    Is the deal with Shelton such that if (when) Sweeney doesn’t hit he will still be in Tacoma? In that case, I think there’s at least the advantage that they have insurance beyond LaHair at that position, while if they kept Shelton and he didn’t, Sweeney will be gone, as I understand from some prior posts that the deal with Sweeney is he retires unless he makes the ML roster.

  43. Jeff Nye on March 31st, 2009 3:50 pm

    In my opinion, it’s been time to move on to someone else for about a year now, but that’s just me being crotchety.

  44. Alex on March 31st, 2009 4:17 pm

    Ichiro 3rd: 3rd should be your 4th or 5th best hitter and someone who avoids double plays.

    He does avoid the DPs due to his speed, but he is a better hitter than that.

    Leadoff: Should be the most OBP focused of the top 3 hitters. On the Mariners 2009 team, that would be Ichiro.

  45. Steve T on March 31st, 2009 4:20 pm

    Having just read Tangotiger’s batting order chapter in “The Book”, where he rather convincingly shows that you should stick a somewhat lesser hitter in the 3 spot (because, although they come to the plate more often than #4, they more often come to the plate with one or two outs, which reduces the value of positive batting events), I second vj’s question.

    Not that it matters much. But it matters a little. Your best hitters belong in 1, 2 and 4, with 1 and 2 leaning towards the “walks” side and 4 towards the “power” side. 5 and 3 are less important. 6-9, just stick ‘em in in declining order of overall quality.

  46. Steve T on March 31st, 2009 4:31 pm

    Alex gets there before me!

  47. ppl on March 31st, 2009 5:09 pm

    Since this team was built around great outfield defense, and since key line-up voids (1B/DH/LF) were adressed with platoon combinations, I hope they stay that course now, sink or swim. Chavez on the bench is a waste of talent, I want to see him in left everytime a righty starts. Balentien merits the chance to be the righty in this situation, and may well outperform a lot players who project as better in the role right now. If not, so what, I seriously doubt he will be the deciding factor if this team cannot post a winning record, and a guy could be added via trade later, if that is such a vital need or maybe Wilson gets a shot after all. I completely agree with Chavez/Balentien in left and Junior as DH, for atleast two months, then if they are on pace for 90+ loses anytime after June 1, then, as I have said before, who cares if Junior is in left. For now Wak needs to leave as few leaks in the defense and as few wink links in the line-up as possible.

  48. Jeff Nye on March 31st, 2009 6:15 pm

    then if they are on pace for 90+ loses anytime after June 1, then, as I have said before, who cares if Junior is in left.

    People who still want semi-watchable baseball?

  49. eponymous coward on March 31st, 2009 7:16 pm

    For all the “Wlad’s a failed prospect” talk- has anyone noticed that Jeff Clement is older than Wlad, and hasn’t been able to lock down a full-time MLB job either?

  50. Dave on March 31st, 2009 7:24 pm

    Wow, really? You’d think we’d do a post or two about that…

  51. JWay on March 31st, 2009 8:18 pm

    People who still want semi-watchable baseball?

    Hmmm, we still watched last year… =/

  52. TranquilPsychosis on March 31st, 2009 9:19 pm

    Having “delusions” may be their only avenue to a miracle season.

    It seems to me that the FO isn’t really placing their bets on a “miracle Season”. It actually looks more like they are considering the season to be a balancing year. Read “balancing” as “rebuilding” (please don’t tell the fans, they might revolt)

    Is it possible that the M’s have a “lightning” type season? Yes.

    Is it likely? No

    But it is definitely a step in the right direction. That is what we’re all excited about.

  53. Merrill on April 1st, 2009 1:02 am

    Dave, the chance of Chavez having a great hitting season are far, far less than the chance of Sweeney being a “lightning in the bottle” acquisition.

    Chavez is 30, has never hit much, and is not bloody likely to start now.

    Meanwhile, according to everyone down there, Sweeney is moving much better than he has in the past couple of years, has maintained his bat speed, and thus, if healthy, is very likely to repeat his past hitting performance.

    On a side issue, about “watchable baseball,” people may have watched a bit last year, but the anger and nausea were likely to be pretty strong. It seems very likely those two feelings won’t be so strong this year, even if there is no miracle.

  54. Merrill on April 1st, 2009 1:06 am

    And strawman dude: it’s not a strawman to make a persuasive argument, however faulty, as Dave did.

    It is a strawman to attribute a faulty argument to one’s opponent in place of his real, unassailable argument, and then destroy the replacement.

    You guys by and large need a dictionary when it comes to the “strawman” thing.

  55. eponymous coward on April 1st, 2009 8:51 am

    Meanwhile, according to everyone down there, Sweeney is moving much better than he has in the past couple of years, has maintained his bat speed, and thus, if healthy, is very likely to repeat his past hitting performance.

    Really? Tell me something: how many players in MLB history, after three consecutive years of being a (cumulative) sub-100 OPS+ player (below league-average) after age 30, go back to being a 120+ OPS+ hitter (All-Star)?

    I think you’ll find the number is vanishingly small, which is why none of the projection systems are going to say “Oh, sure, Sweeney’s due to hit .300/.370/.500 again any day now”, since they take everyone’s MLB career into account when projecting people.

    Also, Endy Chavez basically matched Sweeney’s performance with respect to league in 2006 (101 OPS+ vs. 102), and 2007 (84 to 86). Chavez outhitting Sweeney isn’t as unlikely as you think it is.

    As for “Veteran X looks great”- this is the same spring training crap I’ve heard since time immemorial, with zero predictive value.

  56. Jeff Nye on April 1st, 2009 9:03 am

    Mike Sweeney looks so great that he’s going to be the AL MVP this year. Bank on it.

    (April Fool’s!)

  57. Silentpadna on April 1st, 2009 9:56 am

    And strawman dude: it’s not a strawman to make a persuasive argument, however faulty, as Dave did.

    I think you may be referring to me as the “straw man dude”, so if you are, let me respond real briefly. First, I think Dave’s argument is persuasive. Second, dictionaries and other sites could easily be interpreted to construe the argument as a straw man. Here’s what one of them <a href=”straw man“>says about it:

    Main Entry: straw man
    Function: noun
    Date: 1886

    1 : a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily confuted (emphasis mine)
    2 : a person set up to serve as a cover for a usually questionable transaction.

    Obviously, #2 does not apply in this case.

    But entry #1 does. Bear in mind that I agree with Dave’s argument in general and it’s logically strong. I repeated that several times in my posts.

    Where it does enter “a bit of a strawman” (my words) territory is here:

    Over the last three seasons, Chavez and Sweeney have been comparably valuable hitters. The difference between a .322 wOBA and a .315 wOBA is 3.5 runs over 600 plate appearances.

    This implicitly creates an opponent’s position that assumes the M’s believe that that is Sweeney’s expected level of performance this year. My speculation is that the M’s do not believe this, and there is no evidence to suggest that they do expect this level. Dave’s point of argument uses his three-year performance to state that there is “no argument to be made here”. By doing this, he has, in my opinion used an imaginary opposition as a position to argue against.

    My intent in the post was not to insult Dave (hope you’re not insulted Dave), but simply to point out that in the original post, I believe the argument against Sweeney is based on a position the M’s do not likely hold. To Dave’s credit, his first response after mine gets much closer to arguing against a reasonable position the M’s might hold.

    If you want to quibble about the use of the term straw man, feel free I suppose. Being a ‘dude’ on the wrong side of 40 myself, I’ve had plenty of occasions to put a dictionary to good use.

  58. Jeff Nye on April 1st, 2009 10:43 am

    I’m only continuing this derail because it is my duty as a former philosophy major, but:

    In order for this to be a straw man situation, we’d have to know what the Mariners’ position actually is, and that it differs materially from what Dave is guessing that it is. In other words, they’d have to be on record as saying they expect a .365 wOBA from Sweeney. Your guess that that’s what they’re expecting, especially with no reasonable data to infer that as their position from, isn’t enough.

    The basic motivation of using the straw man fallacy is that you can’t easily refute the other person’s actual position, so you exaggerate or distort it into something you CAN easily refute. Since we don’t know what the Mariners’ actual position on Sweeney’s expected level of performance is, you can’t possibly set up a straw man to knock down.

  59. Silentpadna on April 1st, 2009 11:52 am

    Jeff, technically of course, you are correct, but in Dave’s original post, he did exactly that. He knocked down a position that it was assumed the M’s hold. And my exact words were “a bit of a straw man”. It was speculation on my part that the M’s position on Sweeney differed from the numbers that Dave used, because they would have to to provide any justification for giving him a shot in the first place. Dave’s argument against Sweeney being a straw man is implied, in the sense that he argued against a position the M’s never specified either.

    In some sense we are both assuming the M’s hold a position they have not explicitly declared, so my assumption on where the M’s stand could also qualify I suppose.

    I am not accusing Dave of constructing a straw man on purpose to support his argument. It’s really not needed. I very much doubt that it was intended that way. I also admit it to being somewhat of a stretch to call it that, but again, his post (and my response) rests on assuming where the org stands on expectation. That Sweeney has now made the team strongly suggests that they are not depending on a .322 wOBA performance from him. To me, that renders the comparison in the original post less meaningful. When Dave later added a couple of caveats as to how it may shake out to make things even, that bolstered his position significantly because the hopefulness of a strong year from Sweeney is the only position that makes any sense in the original scenario.

  60. Jeff Nye on April 1st, 2009 12:13 pm

    To quote from Futurama: “Bureaucrat Conrad, you are technically correct. The best KIND of correct.”

    Again, something can’t even be “a bit of a straw man” until you know the other person’s actual position on a subject. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing that what you’re asserting isn’t your opponent’s actual position.

  61. Silentpadna on April 1st, 2009 12:35 pm

    I guess that would make a lot of arguments very easily winnable then, wouldn’t it? Just assume the position you give your imagined opponent is correct because there is no actual position specified.

    I would submit that straw man arguments are not always based on a distorted actual position just because the position is not specified. I think we can a lot of times use inductive reasoning to ascertain a reasonable position for the ‘opponent’. I could be way off base, but again, it’s not reasonable to conclude that the M’s are expecting .322 from Sweeney this year. It’s all well and good (and reasonable) that the projection systems all point to something maybe an insignificant tick better. But again, Dave argues against a position that he is assuming the M’s hold and then concluding that using Sweeney is a logically bad choice. My contention is that the premise is faulty because it assumes the M’s are using the same hitting criteria he does in his argument. The M’s came to a conclusion to include Sweeney as a DH or platoon 1B based on some premise or position. If that position does not match Dave’s assumption, then Dave’s assumption becomes a straw man, whether the M’s position it is explicitly stated or not. We may not know for certain that it is – that I have to logically grant – but we can assert it based on some inductive reasoning.

  62. Jeff Nye on April 1st, 2009 1:04 pm

    You’re way off base. The entire purpose of trying to use a straw man argument is that you know you can’t “beat” the opponent’s actual position, so you distort/misrepresent it so that you can then attack THAT position, and claim that you’ve countered their original position.

    Dave isn’t saying anything about what he thinks the Mariners’ actual position is in any of his comments, except for this:

    If we assume that Chavez is +15 in LF and Griffey is -15 in LF, and we assume that Chavez is likely to post a .305 wOBA, then Sweeney would have to post a .365 wOBA to make it dead even.
    The M’s aren’t expecting Sweeney to post a .365 wOBA.

    Dave’s explaining the level of performance that Sweeney would have to put up for Griffey in LF/Sweeney at DH to break even from a performance standpoint, and then saying that the Mariners aren’t expecting that, with the implicit point that they’re expecting something lower than that. For it to be a straw man, the Mariners would’ve had to actually have SAID what they expect Sweeney’s performance to be, then Dave would have to exaggerate or distort that, argue against the distorted/exaggerated version of their position, and then claim victory over the original position.

    And regarding your point here:

    it’s not reasonable to conclude that the M’s are expecting .322 from Sweeney this year.

    Of course it’s reasonable to conclude that they are; and if as you seem to be thinking they’re presuming a much higher level of performance than that, they’d put Sweeney at DH full-time, because regardless of the outfield question, a .365 wOBA would be better than any of the other available options at the position. They’ve made no indication that that’s their plan, so it’s much MORE reasonable to expect that they agree with the projection systems than to be expecting some crazy good year out of him, based on the actions we’ve seen them take with regards to this situation so far.

    Logical fallacies get used a lot online; but in a baseball context, it’s usually argumentum ad antiquatem or argumentum ad verecundiam. :)

  63. eponymous coward on April 1st, 2009 2:22 pm

    I could be way off base, but again, it’s not reasonable to conclude that the M’s are expecting .322 from Sweeney this year.

    Why would you think they expect a lot more out of him? Here, let’s look at a player of recent vintage we’re familiar with who played a similar role on another Mariners team, as well as in the major leagues (basically, PH/backup IF/DH), Dave Hansen. His career wOBA? .327.

    At this point, Sweeney is now what Hansen was: a guy who is a warm body defensively, can pinch hit a little and draw a walk by working a count, without much power, and doesn’t deserve an everyday job, but won’t kill you as a bench player who PHs a few times a week, while starting a few times a month. Yeah, Sweeney was a much better hitter a few years ago, but you can say that about any number of players who are basically playing out the back end of their career, like Gary Sheffield- in fact, there’s a better argument that Sheffield would post a .366 wOBA in 2009 than Sweeney (he’s a better hitter and beat that wOBA as recently as 2007).

  64. Silentpadna on April 1st, 2009 3:03 pm

    FWIW, I am not arguing that the M’s expect that specifically. (I’m sure they are hopeful of it). I am simply taking the position that if the M’s are planning to play Sweeney more than in the role you are suggesting (which was the original argument), then they would not do so with the expectation that he is going to be Hansen. They would do so with the hope of a bounce-back season. I personally don’t know why they would expect more from him, but if they are going to carry him and play him with any regularity, it stands to reason that they would do so with the hope that they would get more from him than what they would get from Hansen. That’s all I’m trying to say. Not that I expect more, or that it is even reasonable to expect more. (That is a separate issue). The only logical basis for running him out there and putting Griffey in left (that specific setup where Chavez sits) lies in what their hopes are for Sweeney. These guys read the net rats. I guarantee you they are aware of what sites like this are saying. They know what Sweeney’s last three years look like. I doubt if they are planning on 60 games with a hurt back and .322. That expectation is not logical in the context of providing a roster spot for him. It doesn’t add up. The very fact that they have provided a roster spot for him suggests that they either believe he will do better, or that they are hopeful for the miracle season, however unlikely it is.

    If they are not planning to put him out at 1B with any regularity or if they are planning to use him in spots only, then I suppose they could project his numbers the same as the others and hope his ‘chemistry affect’ provides a boost.

  65. eponymous coward on April 1st, 2009 3:41 pm

    If they are not planning to put him out at 1B with any regularity or if they are planning to use him in spots only, then I suppose they could project his numbers the same as the others and hope his ‘chemistry affect’ provides a boost.

    Well, given that the M’s front office understands advanced sabremetric statistics as well as the best of us, and that those same statistics don’t project Sweeney all that well, and also say that the projected difference between Sweeney and, say, Shelton at that roster spot is maybe 3 runs over a season, why isn’t it reasonable to assume they are fine with a slightly more marginal player as a backup because they want less bitching and moaning in the clubhouse?

    That’s the thing: the projections for Sweeney don’t say “well, he could break out as a regular”- not to mention the dude’s at the tail end of his career. If you wanted a regular with potential to have a surprise season, you’d go with Chris Shelton, who’s still young enough that he might pull a peak-performance season out of nowhere, like Ben Broussard did a few years ago at a similar age. Carlos Pena, while a better player, also did something similar. So did Ken Phelps, Mike Easler, and any number of guys who get a “AAAA” tag slapped on them and don’t really get consistent playing time until their late 20′s-early 30′s, but turn out to be decent hitters for a few years.

    So I guess that’s my argument- if the M’s FO was thinking “I want someone to DH when Griffey plays LF for a lot of the year”, they’d be going with Shelton on the roster, given that taking a bet on a younger player who has been cycled through some organizations and shows some talent is more likely to pay off than thinking Mike Sweeney is going to hit like it’s 2005.

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