A month ago, I laid out the expected playing time for the LF/DH group on the roster. Since then, the team has made a few roster changes, so it’s worth re-evaluating how we expect the at-bats to be portioned out.
Again, quick refresher – there are approximately 1,400 plate appearances to go around, 1,000 of those coming against RHP and 400 against LHP. Because Bradley is expected to play both LF and DH, we won’t see straight platoons, where two guys share one job and two guys share the other. Instead, we’re going to get a lot of mixing and matching, depending on who is pitching, who is healthy, and whether Wak wants offense or defense on that particular day.
Against left-handers, it’s pretty easy. Assuming Byrnes is healthy and makes the club in spring training, he’s the starting LF against LHP, with Bradley DH’ing on days that he’s available to do so. Since Wak is not a big fan of pinch-hitting, they’ll accumulate at-bats against RHPs in these starts as well, which is why you see PA totals for batters against same handed pitchers, even if they’re going to be platooned.
Against right-handers, it’s a bit more complicated. You’ll see days with Bradley in left and Griffey at DH when both are healthy, probably towards the beginning of the season. As the bumps and bruises pile up, I’d expect to see this less and less. When either Bradley or Griffey need a day off, or Wak wants his best defensive team on the field against an opposing right hander, Langerhans would play left.
A few points, based on these projections.
1. I know some of you want Byrnes to take Langerhans’ spot on the roster. It can’t happen. You can’t make this work with Bradley/Byrnes/Griffey trying to hold down these two spots between them. Sorry, but three unreliable, injury prone, middle-aged guys with leg problems are not enough to cover two positions by themselves. On days when Bradley starts at DH, you’d have three outfielders on the team. That doesn’t work.
2. Given the amount of playing time available for an LF vs RHP, you’ll hopefully see why we’re giving this spot to Langerhans and not to Saunders. Bradley and Byrnes are going to eat up at least half of the at-bats against an RHP from the LF spot, not leaving enough for a young kid who should be playing regularly. If either Bradley or Junior land on the DL, then there’s room for him, but when those two are healthy, there’s not enough at-bats to go around, so he’s best served hanging out in Tacoma.
3. I know people are speculating about the team adding another RH 1B/DH type to the roster based on Jeff Kingston’s comments at FanFest yesterday, but I’d be willing to bet that he was referring to the team looking for depth at that position from a non-roster kind of player. The M’s have done a nice job of building depth across the organization at most spots, but after DFA’ing Tommy Everidge to put Byrnes on the 40-man, they don’t really have a Triple-A right-handed 1B/DH type who they could call-up if Bradley landed on the DL. Given the current setup, there aren’t any DH at-bats available for a right-handed hitter, so the prospective player they’d bring in would be limited to platooning with Kotchman at first base, and there’s no indication that they want to platoon Kotchman.
4. I’m sure there will be a flood of people complaining that this group doesn’t look very impressive. You’re used to teams having power hitters at these spots, and you just can’t accept that this is the plan. This group is significantly better than you guys think. In fact, I’d bet that the M’s could expect something like +4 wins from this group, which would equal about league average production. A Langerhans/Byrnes/Bradley job share in left field should be above average defensively and about average offensively, while Junior and Bradley should produce at an above average level while DH’ing. The various roster filler guys who inevitably have to fill-in when the injuries pile up will drag down the performance, but shouldn’t play enough to cause too many problems.
All told, the total cost of the guys sharing these two positions is about $7 million (Silva’s contract was a sunk cost, so the true cost of Bradley to the M’s is the $3 million that they’re paying the Cubs), and they’re going to get something around a +4 win return on that investment. That’s a bargain, and one of the main reasons why the team was able to spend money to bring in guys like Figgins and Lee. What they’re not spending on overpriced traditional LF/DH types is being allocated to other parts of the roster, and it’s one of the reasons why the M’s were able to be so active this winter.
This LF/DH job share may not be your ideal, but it’s a pretty good use of resources. The M’s have mixed and matched a bunch of players with complementing strengths and weaknesses, given Wakamatsu a lot of flexibility in the line-ups he can put on the field in any given day, and managed to create a situation where they’ll get solid performance for a low cost. It’s a good plan.
Okay, so, we finally know who the right-handed hitting outfielder is going to be – Eric Byrnes. I wrote up Byrnes last week, when he was DFA’d by the Diamondbacks, so the full take is over there. Short version – I like this.
Since Arizona is on the hook for his remaining salary, this is a league minimum deal. The Mariners have no obligation to keep Byrnes if he’s not healthy in spring training, or he looks old, or whatever. It’s a no-risk flyer on a guy who was a pretty darn good player a couple of years ago. His last two years have been terrible, but if he’s healthy, there should still be some juice left in the tank. If he and Langerhans split the LF time (with Bradley playing out there occasionally), the M’s should have a terrific defensive combo that could hit at something resembling a league average rate. And the platoon will cost them $900,000.
One quick note of caution, though – if you look at Byrnes ridiculously low BABIPs the last few years and think “it’s bad luck”, well, maybe, but not all of it is. Byrnes is historically awful at hitting infield flies. He hits enough pop-ups that the moon has taken out a restraining order against him. Pop-ups, of course, are easy to catch and never turn into hits. So you should expect Byrnes to run a below average BABIP. He’ll regress some, most likely, but don’t expect him to come anywhere near .300.
For the most part, they said about what you’d expect them to say, though there were a few comments that stood out to me.
1. Jack basically confirms what everyone has assumed – the Mariners are going to trade for a RH OF/1B/DH power hitting type. If I was a betting man, I’d wager on Josh Willingham.
2. Wak confirms what everyone had assumed – Ichiro will lead off and Figgins will hit second.
3. Wak restates that they will give Saunders a chance to make the team in spring training. This basically rules out the team changing course and going after a guy like Damon. They could theoretically make a Saunders/Willingham job share in left work. There’s no way to make a Saunders/Damon job share work.
4. Wak states that Griffey is going to “be in there when he can.” Despite talk all winter of a reduced role for Junior, the quotes make it sound like he plans on Griffey regularly DH’ing. I don’t think the M’s are actually planning on that, however. You don’t acquire Milton Bradley and talk about still wanting another OF/DH type if you really are going to give Junior regular playing time. I’ll chalk this up to just saying nice things about the franchise icon. Remember, the M’s were willing to let Junior talk about playing the outfield last spring, but when push came to shove, he was a DH. They can talk about him as a potential regular this spring, but when push comes to shove again, he’s a bench player.
If you haven’t heard, the Mariners announced today that Randy Johnson will throw out the first pitch at the home opener on April 12th, which is just really awesome. Johnson and the M’s didn’t part on the best of terms, but I’m really happy to see that the organization was able to put that in the past and give the fans a chance to salute Johnson one more time. Perhaps, if everyone in the stadium cheers loud enough, he’ll change his mind and un-retire. The bullpen could use a good lefty with a knockout slider.
One of the frequent questions we get is “If we don’t know what your numbers mean, where should we start?” I usually don’t have a great answer, suggesting a few various introductions and then telling them to get good at googling. Well, that’s over. At Lookout Landing, one of the commenters has taken it upon himself to collect and categorize a large variety of articles about various topics relating to the analytics of baseball.
So, now, start here. That post contains links to a lot of important information, covering nearly the whole spectrum of analysis. It’s a pretty awesome reference tool. Thanks, Fett.
We’ve talked quite a bit about what type of player who makes sense as the final guy on the position player side of things, given the current roster – a right-handed outfielder who can swing the stick and not embarrass himself in the field would be the perfect complement to the current Bradley/Langerhans/Saunders group of LF options on the roster. There are any number of fairly cheap, useful players of that sort on the market, so the M’s should be able to fill that spot rather easily.
But sometimes, things happen that change your plans. And, given the market that is developing (or not developing, as the case may be) in Johnny Damon’s case, perhaps its time for the Mariners to consider an alternate plan in left field.
Buster Olney reported today that the market for Damon has “dried up”. The Yankees are holding steady on the fact that they only have $2 million left to spend, and they won’t expand their budget to bring him back. There was some talk that the A’s could still pursue Damon even after signing Ben Sheets, but Billy Beane threw water on that idea.
The other teams that had been rumored destinations for Damon either don’t seem interested or have already spent their money on other players. Olney speculates that $4 or $5 million on a one year deal may be the best that Damon could do, and he thought that kind of offer could come from Oakland, who now appears unlikely to pursue him.
There is apparently an opportunity for the Mariners here. As I wrote on FanGraphs today, there are a lot of similarities between Damon this year and Bobby Abreu a year ago. We all saw how the Abreu contract worked out for the Angels, and something like a 1 year, $5 million deal for Damon may be a similarly good idea for the M’s.
Damon is still a good player. He hits for average, draws walks, makes contact, and has some power. Sure, New Yankee Stadium helped him quite a bit last year, but Safeco is designed to help the same type of hitter, and he would find the right field porch in Seattle just as inviting. He’s a good enough defender to handle LF at Safeco, even as his range declines – there’s little evidence that he’s much worse than below average defensively at this point, and that includes his hilariously bad arm. The glove doesn’t even come close to canceling out the value he creates at the plate.
Given regular playing time, Damon should be a +2 to +3 win player, and the Mariners have playing time to offer him. Sure, it’s not ideal to add yet another LH hitter to the LF/DH mix, but Damon doesn’t need to be platooned, so you don’t have to replace Langerhans with a right-handed hitting outfielder in order to make it work (though you could if you wanted to). And you don’t walk away from a bargain just because it’s not ideal. If the M’s can really get Damon for $5M-ish, they won’t find a more cost effective way to upgrade the team in free agency.
The A’s have signed Ben Sheets to a reported $10 million contract for 2010, with incentives that could push his salary up even further if he pitches well. He obviously impressed teams at his outing last week, and his stock increased pretty dramatically.
Given the price, I’m glad the Mariners passed. This a huge buyer’s market, with significant quality talents sitting around looking for jobs. The M’s can spend the rest of their money in better ways.
The M’s seem to need and be looking for (one or both of) an additional starting pitcher of modest talent (since with current MLB playoff scheduling you barely need two SPs once you get there) and a right-handed outfielder you can play part-time and who can field well.
And possibly a catcher on a short deal.
However… we’ve seen that what the front-office really likes to do is make some crazy awesome “win-win” move that hasn’t even been speculated about yet.
So: what could the next move possibly be, then? You want:
1. Plausibility (Cards aren’t going to give up Pujols)
3. Lack of previous predictions by punditry
4. And a full ten points for style
First, let me just say “Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!”
The first 30,000 fans attending the Mariners’ Interleague game against the Reds on June 18 receive a Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro “Cooperstown Bound” dual bobblehead.
1. Members of your fanbase are engaged in a wide-ranging and difficult fight to get Edgar in. Please, not now
2. Don’t do this early. It’s presumptuous. We already know there a voters who feel their gut is the best judge of worthiness — let’s not give them any reasons to delay the inductions of these two. Who knows what slight might push someone’s gut towards “no”?
“Ichiro Designed T-shirt Day” is scheduled for May 1 and, according to Greene, “He helped us design it. It’s pretty cool.”
This could be the finest promotional give-away ever. I’m buying tickets immediately. Though I’d much rather Greene had a wary, ambiguous statement than “pretty cool.” I’d be more sure of its value if it he’d said “Fans will find it an interesting insight that they’ll want to pass on to future generations” or “It’s one-of-a-kind”.
Notably absent: Dave Sims Hat Night. Wear your finest hat, get a chance to meet the man himself. Prizes could include autographed straw hats of increasing coolness. Because Dave Sims has tremendous style. Hopefully FSN sees an opportunity to extend their brand beyond Rally Fries and seizes this idea.
I’ll be on with the guys on ESPN 710 at 2:00-ish.
Here’s the link to the audio – apparently they made fun of how fast I talk after I get off the air. I can’t help it. Salk gets five hours a day to give Washburn a tongue bath, and I only get 10 minutes to make the opposite case.
Okay, I just listened to the audio of their speed test between me and Pete Carroll… and it’s really funny.