The Bedard/Washburn Myth

Dave · June 30, 2009 at 9:51 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Whenever the discussion of what the M’s should do in terms of trading this summer comes up, inevitably, someone will make the point that this team can’t trade away Erik Bedard or Jarrod Washburn and hope to keep contending because “those guys are the reason the team is where they are”. The belief is that the team can’t trade either of their left-handed free agents to be without sinking the 2009 season, because those two are pitching so well that the team would experience a sudden collapse if either of them left.

The problem, however, is that the facts don’t support that belief.

Mariners record when Bedard or Washburn start: 12-13, .480 winning percentage
Mariners record when anyone else starts: 27-23, .540 winning percentage

67% of the Mariner games this season have been started by pitchers other than Bedard and Washburn. We’re supposed to believe that the M’s aren’t contenders without either of those two, yet the team has done just fine with those guys acting as spectators. Why? Because the reasons this team is winning go far beyond an old cliche that overvalues veteran starting pitching.

This team is winning because of Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, David Aardsma, and Sean White, among others. They’re getting ridiculously good performances from that group, all of whom are producing all-star caliber results.

This isn’t to disparage Bedard or Washburn. Both guys have pitched well this season, and both are valuable members of the club. The team is better with them than without them, certainly. However, the reality of baseball is that starting pitching isn’t as important as most people think. Bedard and Washburn are not critical pieces that this team can’t live without. Felix, Ichiro, Branyan, Gutierrez, this version of Aardsma… those are guys the M’s can’t replace. Washburn and Bedard can be replaced.

If Bedard is healthy enough to rejoin the team before the all-star break, the M’s will have seven candidates for their starting rotation – Felix, Bedard, Washburn, Morrow, Vargas, Olson, and Rowland-Smith. Even though RR-S and Olson aren’t that good as starters and profile better out of the bullpen, that’s still a surplus. For a team with some gaping holes on the position player side of things, running a surplus of pitching when other major league teams are dying to trade for a starting pitcher isn’t a very good idea.

Even if you think the M’s should be going for it this year, you should still support the idea that the M’s should look to trade Bedard or Washburn in an effort to upgrade other parts of the club. The dropoff from either of those guys to Garrett Olson is smaller than the difference between Chris Woodward and a major league infielder. Or Yuniesky Betancourt and a big league shortstop.

Position players matter more than pitchers. It’s a sellers market for pitchers, and the M’s have starting pitchers to trade, while they have position players they need to buy. When people start busting out the old cliches about not messing with the rotation because “that’s why they’re winning”, don’t listen to them. The Mariners have options open to upgrading the team by trading Bedard or Washburn. They can deal one of the two and still get better this year.

Comments

72 Responses to “The Bedard/Washburn Myth”

  1. JerBear on June 30th, 2009 10:06 am

    A-freaking-men. Thanks Dave.

    With Beltre gone now, their chances for the playoffs got even slimmer… I’d hate to see the team hoard their FA pitchers in this market, only to fall short of the post season, lose them for nothing, and still have glaring holes on the field.

    Fortunately, I trust that Zduriencik is smarter than that, I’m actually looking forward to some deals going down!

  2. fdeezle on June 30th, 2009 10:12 am

    So with Bastardo going on the DL does that increase the odds of us doing a deal with the Philies?

  3. Paul B on June 30th, 2009 10:14 am

    Yes, trading the remainder of the 2009 season from at least one of the starting pitchers for a position player who could help the team in both 2009 and 2010? That’s a move they have to make.

    I agree absolutely with the premise, but to be fair:

    Mariners record when Bedard or Washburn start: 12-13, .480 winning percentage
    Mariners record when anyone else starts: 27-23, .540 winning percentage

    would include a comparison of the record with Bedard/Washburn versus a projection of what it would be with the replacements.

  4. sevenfly on June 30th, 2009 10:15 am

    Good luck finding a buyer who will give up a “big league shortstop”

  5. cgmonk on June 30th, 2009 10:19 am

    What is the market going to be like for Bedard given his stints on the disabled list?

    If the Mariners are in contention, could his value in staying be higher than any returns from a trade?

  6. floydr on June 30th, 2009 10:19 am

    Hmmm. Would that analysis hold true if we get into the playoffs? I would think we’d be better with Felix/Bedard rather than Felix/part.

  7. jro on June 30th, 2009 10:24 am

    Dave, playing devil’s advocate, but aren’t wins/losses irrelevant in terms of evaluating pitchers? I agree it disproves the notion that Bedard/Washburn are the reason the M’s are in their current position.

    On the pitching surplus argument, that’s really only true when everyone is healthy. Given the track record this year, I’m not so sure I agree that we have a surplus.

    Still, I wouldn’t use either of these arguments to hold up any transaction where we could net help in other areas in exchange for either Bedard or Washburn.

  8. Dave on June 30th, 2009 10:28 am

    Good luck finding a buyer who will give up a “big league shortstop”

    Amazingly enough, they have these things called “three way trades”, where team A needs something, team B needs something else, and team C acts as an intermediary to help team A and team B pull off a trade that works for everyone.

  9. Axtell on June 30th, 2009 10:30 am

    jro-in determining a pitcher’s value, using his wins and losses as a means to measure is irrelevant. But looking at the team’s wins and losses in which they don’t pitch shows the team is fine without them.

    The M’s have a need of position players, and an excess of pitchers. Let’s trade Washburn and Bedard, both of whom are unlikely to re-sign here next year anyways, and get some players in return.

    The point of position players mattering more than starting pitchers cannot be emphasized enough, and its what drives me crazy when a pitcher wins the MVP away. In the grand scheme of things they have so much less input on a season that an everyday player its ridiculous.

  10. Squooshed on June 30th, 2009 10:39 am

    Dave, I think the conclusion is probably correct, but the supporting analysis strikes me as a little lacking.

    I mean, we have pretty good ways to determine how much a pitcher contributes to a team’s success, but win-loss record isn’t one of them. There’s too many other factors that come into play. For instance, has the team’s offense performed differently when Bedard and Washburn are on the mound as opposed to other starters? What about the bullpen, or even the fielding? This website has taught me a lot about how to evaluate the worth and projected value of pitchers and using team win-loss to support your point here flies in the face if all of that. It could be that Bedard and Washburn have been terrific and the team would actually be 6-19 in their starts without them.

    It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to come up with projections for the value that Washburn and Bedard would add over the rest of the year and compare it to the expected results for having RRS and Olson in their place. It also would be more directly relevant to your argument.

    I’ve just come to expect more from this website than the analysis above, which looks more like it would come from the mainstream media, that’s all.

  11. jro on June 30th, 2009 10:40 am

    @Axtell – thanks. The win/loss stat is something I’ve lost sight of, even though it’s the one that really matters.

  12. Mere Tantalisers on June 30th, 2009 10:49 am

    The Rays’ fifth rotation spot has been a disaster this season as both Sonnastine and Kazmir (and Price, really) have not delivered anything close to what was expected. Do you think there is a possibility to give them Washburn for Aybar? Longoria, Bartlett, Zobrist, and Pena have the IF covered for them, Iwamura can play super-sub, and Aybar becomes expendable. I can’t imagine a player that fits our needs better yet isn’t a regular.

  13. CCW on June 30th, 2009 10:49 am

    I don’t disagree with the general point that it might make sense to trade these guys, but looking at W-L records is the epitome of faulty results-based analysis. Assuming that the Mariners will continue to fail to score runs when Bedard and Washburn pitch, or that the bullpen will continue to blow their leads, doesn’t make any sense. The question is, how many wins are those guys going to be worth for the remainder of the year, as compared to their replacements, assuming reasonable projections for all involved.

    So far this year,

    Wasburn: 1.8 WAR
    Bedard: 1.6 WAR

    More than half the season remains, so a conservative estimate would be that each would reproduce these results for the remainder of the year, yielding 3.4 WAR.

    Are RRS and Olson better than replacement level as starters? Not by much. Washburn and Bedard are collectively worth about 3 wins to the team right now. If you were to trade Washburn and Bedard, to replace the wins lost on pitching, you’d need to pick up 3 wins in offense just to stay the course. I’m not sure that’s possible.

  14. Chris_From_Bothell on June 30th, 2009 10:50 am

    When people start busting out the old cliches about not messing with the rotation because “that’s why they’re winning”, don’t listen to them.

    Except when those people that are busting out the cliches are the players on the team in question. Then, selling off a pitcher is seen as waving the white flag, and the team morale and performance suffers for it.

    Which means that if you’re going to sell off Bedard or Washburn, you better get back an above-average player, that contributes quickly, that doesn’t have the misfortune of having an 0-4 day at the plate or an error in their first couple games. And/or, have one of the clubhouse leaders like Griffey or Beltre be on board with the reasoning and help the new guy fit in.

    Correlation does not imply causation, but if you sell off Bedard or Washburn and the team promptly loses their next 2 series, that’s what’s going to be blamed for it by the players and media. No matter how objectively you can prove that that’s not the reason for it.

  15. jimbob on June 30th, 2009 10:53 am

    Removing Carlos Silva from the starting rotation with his 5-18 2008-09 record has been a big boost for the Mariners. I hope the Mariners can sell the Washburn no run support hard luck story at the trade deadline.

  16. Mere Tantalisers on June 30th, 2009 10:53 am

    Whoops Iwamura’s out for the season. Well, so maybe we’d have to sweeten the deal with Sean White, who I’m fully expecting to begin imploding and will be rendered somewhat expendable by Kelley’s return.

    Anyway, I’ve been scanning the list of contenders for teams that need starting pitching and can spare a high OBP lefty infielder. Rays and Aybar’s as good as I can find anywhere.

  17. Mere Tantalisers on June 30th, 2009 11:02 am

    CCW –
    Right now as the roster stands, you’re looking at below replacement level performances at 3B and SS. If the team can get an average player for either position and replace, let’s say Washburn, with a 1.5 WAR starter (easily enough done) then it’s a net gain.

  18. msb on June 30th, 2009 11:09 am

    Ah, informed national perspective.

    “The Mariners shouldn’t re-sign Beltre, they need to spend that money on their young pitchers, and the Mariners need bullpen help, bigtime. When they traded Putz, they never got a back up, they never went for the overall depth …”–Seth Everett.

  19. CCW on June 30th, 2009 11:10 am

    Right now as the roster stands, you’re looking at below replacement level performances at 3B and SS. If the team can get an average player for either position and replace, let’s say Washburn, with a 1.5 WAR starter (easily enough done) then it’s a net gain.

    You think it’s easier to find a 1.5 WAR starting pitcher than it is to find a replacement level 3B or SS? Without doing an exhaustive analysis of the options available, it’s hard to say, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense on its face.

    Whatever… I’m not arguing that it can’t be done, just that W-L records are irrelevant to the analysis.

  20. CCW on June 30th, 2009 11:30 am

    Amazingly enough, they have these things called “three way trades”, where team A needs something, team B needs something else, and team C acts as an intermediary to help team A and team B pull off a trade that works for everyone.

    Ahhh, sarcasm, sweet sarcasm… you’re always there when I want to be dismissive. I think the point is that, regardless of the number of trading partners, it’s hard to think of very many good, and available, SS or 3B. Guys I can imagine targeting:

    Felipe Lopez
    Bill Hall
    Reid Brignac
    Jerry Hairston Jr.

    I’m sure there are others. It isn’t hopeless, by any means. I’m just not convinced there’s a correct answer about the best strategy at this point. We’ll know a lot more in 3 weeks. If the M’s survive the next 3 series, and Bedard seems healthy, I think they almost have to keep Washy and Bedard and their 3 WAR, and trade away a little bit of the future to upgrade the infield.

  21. Mike Snow on June 30th, 2009 11:33 am

    The Mariners shouldn’t re-sign Beltre, they need to spend that money on their young pitchers, and the Mariners need bullpen help, bigtime.

    Well, I agree that we need to spend money on our young pitchers in the sense of signing Felix to a long-term contract. And Brandon Morrow may well be arbitration-eligible after the season, since he only spent a month and a half in the minors last year. So he may be a bit more expensive, although I wouldn’t look to lock him up just yet.

  22. Gump on June 30th, 2009 11:33 am

    Ah, informed national perspective.

    “The Mariners shouldn’t re-sign Beltre, they need to spend that money on their young pitchers, and the Mariners need bullpen help, bigtime. When they traded Putz, they never got a back up, they never went for the overall depth …”–Seth Everett.

    Wow that is a pretty ignorant perspective on the needs to this ballclub. The bullpen seems to be the last thing we NEED to work on.

  23. Tek Jansen on June 30th, 2009 11:35 am

    msb,

    I caught that as well. It is amazing how much dumb crap I hear from national baseball guys who rarely/never watch or follow the M’s. Why not simply say the M’s need to find players to fill 1B and RF. Everett probably thinks Yuni is an excellent defensive player.

  24. Tek Jansen on June 30th, 2009 11:38 am

    I think they almost have to keep Washy

    Is his nickname really “Washy”? If so, then the M’s should trade him for that reason alone. Much worse than Shiggy or Winny.

  25. Gump on June 30th, 2009 11:41 am

    As much as I love that the M’s are over .500 right now I just don’t want to sacrifice the next few years for that slim hope of getting to the postseason and advancing further. I would love to see one if not both of them moved for pieces which with the moves Z has done so far I trust what he’s doing.

  26. patnmic on June 30th, 2009 11:50 am

    I guess one question I have is Washburn going to be a type A free agent?

  27. cgmonk on June 30th, 2009 11:56 am

    Wow that is a pretty ignorant perspective on the needs to this ballclub. The bullpen seems to be the last thing we NEED to work on.

    Jeff over at Lookout Landing made a post on the bullpen last week.

    http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2009/6/26/926725/todays-ominous-fact

    ERA: 2nd
    Contact%: 29th
    K/BB: 28th
    Strike%: 26th
    HR/FB: 2nd (lowest)
    tRA: 25th
    tRA*: 30th

    Wow. Okay, so according to all that the bullpen looks even worse than I thought it would when I started writing this. The ERA’s great, but the unit doesn’t miss bats, it doesn’t throw strikes, and when you regress everything and look at arguably the most complete single measure of effectiveness, they come out last. Out of everyone. Even worse than the Nationals, who’ve racked up 11 successful saves and 17 failures. That’s…well that’s really bad.

  28. Sports on a Schtick on June 30th, 2009 11:59 am

    Washburn is probably not even a Type B.

    So far this year,

    Wasburn: 1.8 WAR
    Bedard: 1.6 WAR

    More than half the season remains, so a conservative estimate would be that each would reproduce these results for the remainder of the year, yielding 3.4 WAR.

    That’s not a conservative estimate.

  29. msb on June 30th, 2009 12:02 pm

    Seth wasn’t worried about bullpen overuse, he wanted the Ms to spend money on a replacement for Putz and more pitching in the offseason.

  30. AuburnM on June 30th, 2009 12:03 pm

    Position players matter more than pitchers

    I know I am going to sabervillified here, but this defies all the rules of sports and baseball.

    If you stop the other team from scoring you are in every game. In every sport, defense wins.

    Having starters who consistently go into the 7th or beyond keeps you in every game.

    Teams that win have a starting staff with an ERA under 4.00.

    The Mariners have the worst offense in baseball, and below average middle infied defense. Why are we two games over .500?

    Everything matters, but you can’t win without strong starting pitching. Ask Texas.

  31. ballsoffire3 on June 30th, 2009 12:06 pm

    Anybody see the article in the Seattle Times Blog on the rosterbating of trading Batista or another power bullpen arm for Rockies third basemen Garrett Atkins? He’s getting 7 million this year.

  32. brian_sun on June 30th, 2009 12:10 pm

    Franklin Gutierrez playing at an all star level? He’s playing in an all star level during the last week with a 1.071 OPS, but that’s it. To say he’s playing in an all star level over the course of the first half is a stretch. Carlos Beltran is playing at an all star level. Torii Hunter is playing at an all star level. Adam Jones is playing at an all star level. Franklin Gutierrez is a solid CF with an average bat. But he’s not an all star, yet.

  33. Dave on June 30th, 2009 12:12 pm

    Everything matters, but you can’t win without strong starting pitching. Ask Texas.

    You realize Texas is winning with the worst starting pitching in baseball, right? #30 out of #30, and they’re in the playoff hunt.

    Pitching is not run prevention. Defense matters too, and the M’s defense is a big part of why their ERA is so low.

  34. Dave on June 30th, 2009 12:15 pm

    Carlos Beltran is playing at an all star level. Torii Hunter is playing at an all star level. Adam Jones is playing at an all star level. Franklin Gutierrez is a solid CF with an average bat. But he’s not an all star, yet.

    Check again.

    Gutierrez is the new Beltre – league average bat + great glove. This is an all-star caliber performance.

  35. The Ancient Mariner on June 30th, 2009 12:17 pm

    I guess one question I have is Washburn going to be a type A free agent?

    No.

    I think they almost have to keep Washy

    Is his nickname really “Washy”? If so, then the M’s should trade him for that reason alone. Much worse than Shiggy or Winny.

    More likely “Wash.” If there’s any justice in this universe, though, his nickname’s “Hoban” . . .

  36. CCW on June 30th, 2009 12:19 pm

    That’s not a conservative estimate.

    What would be a conservative estimate, then, for two pitchers who have put up, collectively, 3.4 WAR, through 46% of the season, for the remaining 54% of the season? How about 3 WAR, which is the number I actually used in the remainder of my post (you know, to be conservative)? How about 2.5 WAR? I don’t know. None of that has any real bearing on the argument I spent 3 paragraphs making. Why do people argue with the trees but ignore the forest?

  37. The Ancient Mariner on June 30th, 2009 12:21 pm

    If you stop the other team from scoring you are in every game. In every sport, defense wins.

    Not if the other team does a better job of stopping you from scoring, you aren’t.

  38. _David_ on June 30th, 2009 12:21 pm

    WAR so far this year:

    A. Jones: 1.8

    Nyjer Morgan (who the Pirates just hilariously traded for Lastings Milledge): 1.9

    Gutierrez: 2.1

    Betran 2.6

    Hunter 2.7

    Ichiro: 3

    Sure he probably won’t be among the top three outfielders until he fully develops his offensive potential, but he’s up there.

  39. The Ancient Mariner on June 30th, 2009 12:23 pm

    CCW, a conservative estimate would be that Bedard spends half the rest of the season on the DL and doesn’t pitch quite as well when he’s active, and Washburn gives up about a run more per game than he’s been doing. What exactly that translates to in terms of WAR, I don’t feel like calculating.

  40. coffeemonkey on June 30th, 2009 12:31 pm

    No one has addressed CCW’s point about results based analysis.

    I don’t disagree with the general point that it might make sense to trade these guys, but looking at W-L records is the epitome of faulty results-based analysis

    Isn’t the original post making conclusions based on results? This seems opposite of what this site always preaches, which is not to make decisions on a results based approach.

  41. AuburnM on June 30th, 2009 12:39 pm

    I do realize that Texas has been historically all hitting and no pitching and they have never won anything.

    Are the Mariners playing great defense? With Lopez and Yuni up the middle? Really?

  42. Dave on June 30th, 2009 12:40 pm

    I’m not making conclusions. I’m poking a hole in the “Bedard/Washburn have been vital to the club’s success” theory, which just isn’t based on reality.

  43. BrianL on June 30th, 2009 12:43 pm

    Yes, the Mariners have been playing great defense. They are the fifth-ranked team in terms of UZR checking in at +22.6

  44. CMC_Stags on June 30th, 2009 12:46 pm
    I think they almost have to keep Washy

    Is his nickname really “Washy”? If so, then the M’s should trade him for that reason alone. Much worse than Shiggy or Winny.

    More likely “Wash.” If there’s any justice in this universe, though, his nickname’s “Hoban” . . .

    The “Bus”. Done and done.

  45. Breadbaker on June 30th, 2009 12:58 pm

    Wow that is a pretty ignorant perspective on the needs to this ballclub. The bullpen seems to be the last thing we NEED to work on.

    More to the point, what this year has demonstrated is, as Dave and Derek pointed out before it happened, that the bullpen is the last place to spend money. You can get reasonable bullpen performance from league minimum guys.

    As to the main point of the post about wins, it’s not a matter of “wins” and “losses” as stats, it’s a matter that, given the M’s have succeeded better in the games Bedard and Washburn haven’t pitched in, it’s ridiculous to say that the M’s can’t succeed if they don’t have them. No one is saying Bedard and Washburn were entirely responsible for the record in the games they pitched, but clearly they were not responsible at all for the record in the games they didn’t pitch. And the M’d did all right in those games.

  46. CMC_Stags on June 30th, 2009 1:00 pm

    Are the Mariners playing great defense? With Lopez and Yuni up the middle? Really?

    Yep. Even with them as glaring holes, the rest of the team has been good enough to make up for it. The whole 3 CF in the outfield concept does wonders for fly-ball pitchers (hello Washburn!). Also, the corner IF has been very good with Beltre doing his normal superman act at 3B (until now) and Branyan transitioning smoothly to playing 1B regularly.

  47. Tuomas on June 30th, 2009 1:04 pm

    Results-based analysis is fine when you’re trying to analyze results. Results-based analysis is not fine when you’re trying to make predictions. Dave’s not predicting anything about the team going forward using W/L; he’s just noting that a particular argument doesn’t carry any water. It’s hard to say that two pitchers have been particularly vital to success when the team has a losing record in games they start and a winning record in games they don’t start. W/L doesn’t tell you anything about skill levels or future performance, but sometimes it doesn’t need to.

  48. CCW on June 30th, 2009 1:07 pm

    I’m not making conclusions. I’m poking a hole in the “Bedard/Washburn have been vital to the club’s success” theory, which just isn’t based on reality.

    If Washburn and Bedard had pitched like replacement level pitchers, instead of like 3-4 WAR pitchers, the M’s would have been worse than 12-13 during the games they started (probably 3 games worse). If the M’s were 3 games further out of it, the discussion would be significantly different right now. C’mon, Dave, just admit you got one wrong for once.

  49. AuburnM on June 30th, 2009 1:11 pm

    I am not saying don’t trade these two pitchers.

    I am saying that pitchers are not less important than position.

    I might be persuaded they are of equal importance.

  50. red_devil20 on June 30th, 2009 1:12 pm

    I agree that The Bus and The Player Formerly Known as Adam Jones (TPFAJ) aren’t the most important players on the team, but I think it’s unfair to analyze it like Dave has done here because Felix is such an outlier in the data that it skews the charts. Overall team record: 39-36. Team record when Felix starts: 11-5.

    If you take Felix away from the equation and try to figure out whether those two are irreplaceable to our chances to contend, it looks a bit different. Our record when starters not named Felix, Bus, or TPFAJ is just 16-18.

    That’s a lot of meandering to say that our pitching staff is comprised of Felix and some other guys.

  51. JI on June 30th, 2009 1:15 pm

    I do realize that Texas has been historically all hitting and no pitching

    When Texas reached the playoffs in 1996 their run prevention was among the best in baseball.

  52. Teej on June 30th, 2009 1:16 pm

    If you stop the other team from scoring you are in every game. In every sport, defense wins.

    And if you can score runs in bunches, you are in every game. This whole idea that defense is more important than offense in sports is baffling. They’re equally important, and they work toward the exact same goal — outscoring your opponent.

    Teams that win have a starting staff with an ERA under 4.00.

    The first-place Angels’ ERA is 4.62. The first-place Phillies’ is 4.80. The first-place Red Sox are 47-29 with an ERA slightly above 4.

    The Mariners have the worst offense in baseball, and below average middle infied defense. Why are we two games over .500?

    Because of run prevention, which involves more than just pitching. Even with Yuni and Lopez, the M’s have a great defense.

  53. red_devil20 on June 30th, 2009 1:17 pm

    My inability to read ruined my own nickname for Bedard, as it should read TPFKAJ. Sure doesn’t roll off the tongue like TPFAJ though.

  54. JI on June 30th, 2009 1:19 pm

    I am not saying don’t trade these two pitchers.

    I am saying that pitchers are not less important than position.

    I might be persuaded they are of equal importance.

    Pitching is less important than your lineup because position players contribute on both offense and on defense, while pitchers contribute solely on defense.

  55. _David_ on June 30th, 2009 1:23 pm

    Auburn: run production and run prevention are obviously equal.

    Run prevention breaks into pitching and defense. So position players contribute partly to run prevention with their defense and are solely responsible for run production with their offense. If you look at it this way, position players are clearly more important. It gets more complicated when you break down which positions field more batted balls and what percentage of the teams innings a pitcher pitches in, but it should be pretty easy to accept that certain position players like shortstops and centerfielders contribute significantly more than starting pitchers.

  56. lokiforever on June 30th, 2009 1:28 pm

    Pitchers contribute to run prevention only, and with that for 6-7 innings out of every 45 innings played.

  57. JMHawkins on June 30th, 2009 1:31 pm

    Then, selling off a pitcher is seen as waving the white flag, and the team morale and performance suffers for it.

    Alternate take: failing to plug gaping holes in lineup left by injuries is seen as waving the white flag and team morale and performance and fan interest suffers for it.

    Dave’s point is that the team has a better chance of competing this year if they trade Washburn/Bedard for infield help because the organization has candidates to replace those two pitchers who might realiastically turn in big-league performances. But they don’t have candidates to replace Beltre and Yuni.

    Zduriencik saying “we’re going to trade one of our quality starting pitchers for a quality infielder to replace Adrian and ask Ryan/Garret/Justin to step up and replace Erik/Jarrod” is a perfectly reasonable statement.

    Now, for Auburn:

    If you stop the other team from scoring you are in every game. In every sport, defense wins.

    And playing defense is a huge, huge part of stopping the other team from scoring runs. Run prevention is half the game, but Run Prevention is way more than just the pitcher.

    Having starters who consistently go into the 7th or beyond keeps you in every game.

    And the reason starters make it to the 7th is because they don’t have to face six or seven batters every inning. Part of that is not walking guys, part of it is striking guys out, and part of it is defenders turing BIP into outs. With Washburn, that last part is critical since he’s not a K guy. And with Bedard, talking about going 7 plus is, well, let’s just forget that.

    Teams that win have a starting staff with an ERA under 4.00.

    The sad thing about ERA is that it attributes everything to the pitcher. Any out made is the pitcher’s doing, and unless someone boots a ball every run scored is the pitcher’s fault too. Gutierrez turning doubles into outs doesn’t factor into it. Why do you think the M’s have such a better ERA this year compared to the last couple? I mean aside from Silva not being in the rotation.

  58. Mike Snow on June 30th, 2009 1:33 pm

    But they don’t have candidates to replace Beltre and Yuni.

    The first one I agree with, but the way Betancourt has played most of the year, they have plenty of candidates to replace him. Their names are Cedeno, Woodward, and Wilson. Now, if you want the replacement to be an upgrade, that’s another thing.

  59. CCW on June 30th, 2009 1:35 pm

    The discussion of which is more important, position players or pitchers, is just silly, from the get-go. Importance (i.e. value) can be measured. Don’t keep talking about which is more “important” in the abstract… look what a player is actually worth. Hell, by WAR, the two best starters (Zach Greinke and Tim Lincecum) have each been worth about 1 win more than the best hitter (Albert Pujols) this year. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. My guess is it’ll just give you a headache.

    I think Dave is right that, in general, teams and even moreso casual fans overvalue pitching, probably because of the cliche that “pitching wins”. So, maybe you can take advantage of that be trading pitching and upgrading the middle infield. But you aren’t going to persuade anyone who’s paying attention with vague generalities like “position players matter more than pitchers”.

  60. Matt the Dragon on June 30th, 2009 1:50 pm

    I know I am going to sabervillified here, but this defies all the rules of sports and baseball.

    To keep things simple: The game is 50% run scoring and 50% run prevention.

    Especially given this is the AL, position players may be considered to contribute the full 50% on scoring.

    Assuming you give any weight to defense, you must also accept that part of the run prevention portion adds on to that for position players and subtracts from the remaining 50% left for pitchers.

    So, position players > pitchers even before allowing for the reduction for playing time.

    Isn’t the original post making conclusions based on results? This seems opposite of what this site always preaches, which is not to make decisions on a results based approach.

    Sort of. I rather got the impression though that Dave was simply painting a broad-brush picture of where the team was at with and without Bedard and Washburn and no actual analysis or conclusions were based on those W-L records. I may be wrong, of course.

    Are RRS and Olson better than replacement level as starters? Not by much. Washburn and Bedard are collectively worth about 3 wins to the team right now. If you were to trade Washburn and Bedard, to replace the wins lost on pitching, you’d need to pick up 3 wins in offense just to stay the course. I’m not sure that’s possible.

    Right now as the roster stands, you’re looking at below replacement level performances at 3B and SS. If the team can get an average player for either position and replace, let’s say Washburn, with a 1.5 WAR starter (easily enough done) then it’s a net gain.

    You think it’s easier to find a 1.5 WAR starting pitcher than it is to find a replacement level 3B or SS? Without doing an exhaustive analysis of the options available, it’s hard to say, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense on its face.

    The response said it was easier to find a 1.5 WAR starting pitcher than an average 3B or SS, not replacement.

    Your original point, even allowing the considerably-less-than-conservative projections for the remainder of the season of Bedard and Washburn wouldn’t show a significant drop if an average 3B or SS was picked up for one of them (i.e. -1.5 WAR (drop to replacement SP) +1 (jump to average IF)) and that doesn’t allow for the fact that Yuni is below replacement and that those expectations are probably high.

    Even if you only accept it as an approximate wash (no pun intended) rather than a specific in-season upgrade, if the replacement is signed (especially if cheaply) beyond this year surely that’s an overall gain, notwithstanding draft picks if they materialise?

  61. Xteve X on June 30th, 2009 1:56 pm

    “I might be persuaded they are of equal importance.”

    Pitchers are dependent on their defense for run prevention. They don’t strike every single guy out. and in the AL at least contribute nothing to run production. How about you persuade me how a pitcher can even be considered equal to a position player given those conditions.

    It’s similar to how only a QB can be penalized for an INT using counting stats. Counting stats don’t tell you if a WR ran the wrong route or the ball got tipped, just as outs aren’t solely attributable to the guy on the mound.

  62. julian on June 30th, 2009 2:01 pm

    Hell, by WAR, the two best starters (Zach Greinke and Tim Lincecum) have each been worth about 1 win more than the best hitter (Albert Pujols) this year.

    Yeah, but WAR is position-adjusted. The fact that Greinke/Lincecum are further above replacement relative to the population of starting pitchers than Pujols is relative to 1Bs says nothing about their worth relative to each other.

  63. Teej on June 30th, 2009 2:17 pm

    Hell, by WAR, the two best starters (Zach Greinke and Tim Lincecum) have each been worth about 1 win more than the best hitter (Albert Pujols) this year.

    I’m not sure if that’s a very sound way to look at the question, but for what it’s worth, the opposite has been true for every year that Fangraphs has UZR data.

  64. CCW on June 30th, 2009 2:22 pm

    Yeah, but WAR is position-adjusted. The fact that Greinke/Lincecum are further above replacement relative to the population of starting pitchers than Pujols is relative to 1Bs says nothing about their worth relative to each other.

    I don’t think that’s correct. The whole point of using the concept of replacement level, and WAR, is so you CAN compare the value of players at different positions, including pitchers and players at any position, against one another.

    You’d rather have Greinke’s performance this year so far and a team full of replacement level players than Pujols’ performance so far this year and a team full of replacement level players. Greinke has been more valuable, worth more wins, more important, or whatever term you want to use, than Pujols, so far this year.

    I think…

  65. CCW on June 30th, 2009 2:26 pm

    I’m not sure if that’s a very sound way to look at the question, but for what it’s worth, the opposite has been true for every year that Fangraphs has UZR data.

    Agreed – it doesn’t tell you a whole lot. I was just pointing out the question whether position players or pitchers are more “important” or “valuable”, in the abstract, while maybe interesting on a theoretical level, has very little practical significance. If you want to answer a question that matters, you need to look at the actual value of the actual players you are discussing.

  66. diderot on June 30th, 2009 2:35 pm

    Leaving aside the results-based analysis question and the pitching-versus-hitting argument, I think the heart of the post is here…

    The Mariners have options open to upgrading the team by trading Bedard or Washburn. They can deal one of the two and still get better this year.

    Emphasis on the last to words–’this year’. Given what everyone in baseball knows about their contract situations/injury history/under bus throwing, I think it’s wishful thinking to see us using either of the pitchers to get a major-league ready replacement for Beltre. Not someone as good as Beltre–just someone better than Branyan or Shelton or Woodward or whomever. If we do, let’s start the parade for Z early, no matter what the team does from here on out.

    So what I’d like to see added to this conversation are the relative reversals we’re going to see trying to replace Beltre’s defense. In other words, how good do we expect any of the logical internal replacements to be with the glove…or for that matter, any of the hopefuls we might be able to pry away from other teams?

  67. NODO Dweller on June 30th, 2009 2:38 pm

    I don’t think that’s correct. The whole point of using the concept of replacement level, and WAR, is so you CAN compare the value of players at different positions, including pitchers and players at any position, against one another.

    I believe that’s wrong – WAR specifically separates position players from pitchers in a variety of ways per THE BOOK.

  68. The Ancient Mariner on June 30th, 2009 6:16 pm

    Also, CCW, the extremes aren’t really relevant to the generalization. What matters w/r/t the generalization is whether, in general, a team’s position players as a whole are more important to its success than its pitching staff; and in general, this generalization is true, and demonstrably so.

  69. dave6267 on June 30th, 2009 7:08 pm

    I’m not making conclusions. I’m poking a hole in the “Bedard/Washburn have been vital to the club’s success” theory, which just isn’t based on reality.

    If Washburn and Bedard had pitched like replacement level pitchers, instead of like 3-4 WAR pitchers, the M’s would have been worse than 12-13 during the games they started (probably 3 games worse). If the M’s were 3 games further out of it, the discussion would be significantly different right now. C’mon, Dave, just admit you got one wrong for once.

    Couldn’t agree more. I was surprised to see this ‘evidence’ used on this site. I agree that shipping one of them off for a ML ready SS could add more wins than it loses, but W/L… come on. Like CCW said, if you want to play the results-based game, look at how much worse we would be without Bedard and Washburn

  70. rcc on June 30th, 2009 10:38 pm

    This article is now accessible straight from the online PI…hope they pay a royalty fee to the boys of the USS Mariner. Way to go guys…

  71. Mike Snow on July 1st, 2009 9:49 am

    Baker is now arguing that Bedard makes a difference because he can regularly go at least six or seven innings. (You know, the chain-reaction-wearing-out-the-bullpen-in-the-second-half theory from 2007.) As well as Bedard has pitched when he’s been available, I’d like to know what Baker’s been watching, because we haven’t seen that Erik Bedard in the past year and a half, and I don’t know why you’d think he would suddenly appear now when we’re building him back off his latest injury setback.

  72. Puffy on July 1st, 2009 6:49 pm

    Good luck finding a buyer who will give up a “big league shortstop”
    Amazingly enough, they have these things called “three way trades”, where team A needs something, team B needs something else, and team C acts as an intermediary to help team A and team B pull off a trade that works for everyone.

    Yes, but I think the point is that there is a very real scarcity of “big league shortstops” in baseball this year. I imagine plenty of suitors seeking infield help and relatively few sellers. Do the Mariners really want to compete in the deadline trade market for one of a very few potentially available SS (a Jack Wilson or Felipe Lopez or…)? Is that the best way to expend the team’s resources?

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