Some Not So Fun Math

Dave · May 14, 2010 at 6:45 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners are 13-21, 6 1/2 games out of first place. They have 128 games left to play.

Heading into the season, we had the team pegged as about an 83 to 85 win “true talent” team, which works out to about a .520 winning percentage. If the Mariners win 52 percent of their remaining games, they will finish with a record of 80-82. If our opinion of the team was exactly the same as it was on Opening Day, we would now expect the team to finish just below .500.

Of course, the last six weeks of baseball provide some evidence that there are reasons to think that this team might not be a true talent 83 to 85 win team. Milton Bradley didn’t stay under control. Jack Wilson didn’t stay healthy. Rob Johnson didn’t learn how to catch over the winter. Even leaving aside the slumps of guys like Chone Figgins and Jose Lopez, which have been big problems but should theoretically not continue for much longer, there are some structural issues with this roster that weren’t true in March. I’d probably argue that this is more like a 78 to 80 win true talent team right now, given how the roster has shaken out.

If I’m right, and the Mariners play like their “true” selves the rest of the year, they’d finish 75-87.

How wrong do we have to be for the Mariners to win the AL West? With 128 games to play, the team would have to play .601 baseball the rest of the year to finish at 90-72. Texas is good enough to win more than 89 games, and so I don’t think we can assume that anything less than 90 will get it done. .601 baseball is basically the level the Phillies have played for the first six weeks of the season. Right now, a .601 winning percentage would rank 6th highest in baseball. Even good teams have a hard time playing .600 baseball for four and a half months. And 90 wins is no guarantee of a playoff spot.

95 wins probably gets you in. It’s tough for me to see two AL West teams finishing with more than 95 wins, so we’ll say that’s the magic number to where you can be pretty darn sure you’ll be playing in October. The Mariners would have to play .640 baseball the rest of the year – about the level that the Yankees have played in the first six weeks of the season – to finish with 95 wins. That’s basically winning two out of every three games, all year long, starting today.

Like I said yesterday, I’m not trying to sound melodramatic, but the Mariners chances of making the playoffs now stand somewhere between five and 10 percent. They’re probably closer to five percent, honestly. It’s pretty bleak.

The point of this isn’t to be Debbie Downer, but rather, to suggest that the Mariners have probably played themselves out of a position to make the kinds of trades that people have been calling for. The numbers don’t add up to make a prospects-for-veteran swap make sense. Even if you could get Houston to trade Lance Berkman, this team has played themselves out of position to give up what it takes to get a guy like that. With trade season getting ready to open up, the Mariners can’t be “buyers” in the traditional sense. They shouldn’t make another Cliff Lee trade – there aren’t good enough odds of winning this year to justify it.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make any moves and try to salvage the season. They aren’t so far out that you can pull the plug and just call it a rebuilding year. But they have to change the type of trades they may have been looking at. Instead of moving prospects for a big thumping bat who will walk away in a year or two, the team should be looking to make moves for guys that can help in 2010 and beyond – guys who make this roster better, but can also offer some longer term value.

Just as an example, the M’s should absolutely be burning up the phone lines in Detroit trying to get Ryan Raburn from the Tigers – a 29-year-old right-handed super utility player with a pretty solid bat and a good glove in the outfield who can also fill in at 2B/3B when needed. He makes the league minimum, is arb eligible for the first time this winter, and the Tigers just optioned him to Triple-A out of frustration with his slow start. ZIPS projects him for a .344 wOBA going forward, which would make him the second or third best hitter on the team, and he’d be a perfect complement to Saunders in LF while also offering a bat who can play multiple positions and have enough thump to improve the offense.

He’s not Lance Berkman, but he’s the kind of guy the Mariners should actively be trying to acquire. He won’t save this season, but there’s a pretty good chance that it’s not able to be saved, and the team doesn’t have a strong enough farm system to waste assets on a guy who won’t be here past this season.

They have approximately six weeks to turn this thing around and get back into the race, at which time they’ll have to figure out if they’re close enough to contention to keep Cliff Lee. They can’t just sit around and wait for guys to start hitting until then, but neither has this team earned the right to have the front office trade more future for present. That’s just not a wise trade anymore.

Whether they’re better than this or not, the 13-21 start has put the season on the brink.

Comments

66 Responses to “Some Not So Fun Math”

  1. bookbook on May 14th, 2010 6:52 am

    I absolutely think you’re right, but I also think were all overreacting to a bad streak. I think I’m suffering from cognitive dissonance.

  2. mr_cysco on May 14th, 2010 6:59 am

    at what point do you seriously start considering moving pieces like Lee? Do you wait until the deadline and see where the team’s at? or, if we find ourselves 10+GB in June?

  3. smb on May 14th, 2010 7:02 am

    Debbie Downer gets such a bad rap…too bad she is almost always right! Maybe we can establish a new axiom that “Any team with Mike Sweeney on the 25 man roster will not so much as sniff the playoffs.”

  4. CCW on May 14th, 2010 7:04 am

    All true, but I still say “bah”. This team has been unlucky. A nice run of good luck would put them back in contention. They probably won’t win it, but contention is fun. I give them a 30% chance of contention.

  5. StatisticallyInsignificant on May 14th, 2010 7:12 am

    Thanks Dave – as always the voice of reason will prevail. The optimist in me is slowly being destroyed by these guys. *sigh*

  6. G-Man on May 14th, 2010 8:10 am

    Dave is right that trading prospects to go for it is foolish. I see little hope, but I am willing to give them a few weeks to see if they can play better, but then, it’s time to look ahead to 2011.

    If they do get Ryan Raburn from the Tigers, I will know that Dave is secretly on retainer (see Langerhans, Ryan).

  7. luckyscrubs on May 14th, 2010 8:12 am

    This team has been unlucky. A nice run of good luck would put them back in contention.

    I disagree. Not only do the Mariners have to get red hot for an extended period, but the Rangers, A’s, and Angels have to get ice cold. This team can no longer just go about its business and hope for the best.

    On the bright side, at this rate the Mariners won’t be caught in a weird middle ground between buyers and sellers like last year.

  8. Dennisss on May 14th, 2010 8:19 am

    I was sort of Debbie Downer yesterday, so today I’ll switch gears and take the over on those 75 wins.

    There is a very good chance that we will see better production going forward from 2nd and 3rd and the DH/left field combination, and maybe 1st base as well. Meanwhile, the rotation could soon be Felix, Lee, Bedard, Vargas, Fister. It still looks good on paper. Probably not good enough to overcome this deficit, but I’m betting we’ll still see some interesting baseball this year.

  9. G-Man on May 14th, 2010 8:20 am

    On the bright side, at this rate the Mariners won’t be caught in a weird middle ground between buyers and sellers like last year.

    Agree, and I hate that spot. I think that too often, teams go for it with relatively faint hopes.

    I do think that a team is correctly loathe to give up to early and diappoint their fans, some of whom may actually buy tickets. That’s a non-mathematical factor in the business of baseball. No, wait, ticket sales revenue is a number, isn’t it? Never mind.

  10. Paul B on May 14th, 2010 8:31 am

    Last September, Wakamatsu was a genius.

    By May, he’s a bloomin’ idiot.

    Amazing how quickly things can change, isn’t it?

  11. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2010 8:32 am

    A nice run of good luck would put them back in contention.

    Right, but assuming that will show up is Gambler’s fallacy.

    Also, let’s say they DO do something similar to last year’s recovery from a May slide, and bounce back to 85 wins (meaning they go 72-56, a .562 winning percentage). That still didn’t get them very close to the playoffs- they were 9 games out at the trading deadline.

    Something else to note: last year, the M’s never went this far below .500 (low point: 24-28, June 1, 7 games out)… and the closest they got back into the race after that point was a month later (42-38, July 4, 2.5 games out). They had to play like a 100 win team for a month and it still wasn’t enough to put them over the hump- and they had less of a hump.

    I’d say the next 12 games (all against .500 or better teams) is probably going to be the acid test. If they tank the next two weeks, contention’s over. If they can claw to a 6-6 record or better, they’ll still have a small chance.

  12. mlathrop3 on May 14th, 2010 8:43 am

    In regards to Texas, it does seem like they always go through a period in the summer when their pitchers bring gas cans to the mound with them, especially playing at home in the heat.

    Oakland should go through a hitting drought like the M’s have and their fans will be treated to the same brand of frustrating to watch baseball that we have.

    The Angel’s should continue playing as a team with a flawed roster.

    ALL of those things have to happen for us to have a shot.

  13. Liam on May 14th, 2010 8:47 am

    I’ve got to disagree with you on this one Dave; math is always fun.

  14. Chris_From_Bothell on May 14th, 2010 9:01 am

    Ryan Raburn? More middle-of-the-road, utility, AAAA bargain basement hunting?

    Apart from Lee and Figgins, the Ms already went the “build for now and for the future”, “build on the cheap” approach this last offseason. It didn’t work.

    If the team is going to rebuild, it should truly commit the money and time to rebuilding, full on. Like the Rays did.

    This incremental approach of trading for and buying marginal players and utility men and hoping there’s a hidden gem or two among them won’t cut it. They need to find and pay for higher quality players overall.

  15. Dave on May 14th, 2010 9:02 am

    Ryan Raburn is a league average player. This team badly needs league average players at a few positions.

    There is no lack of star power on this team. You’re fooling yourself if you think adding a “star” will fix everything.

  16. Chris_From_Bothell on May 14th, 2010 9:14 am

    Not talking about getting stars. I’m saying that we’ve seen how the theory of getting league average players can flop over badly.

    Get above-average players, and when they slump, they’re merely average.

    Get average players, and when they slump, they’re… well, they’re 2/3rds of the 2010 M’s lineup on any given day.

  17. diderot on May 14th, 2010 9:15 am

    On the bright side, at this rate the Mariners won’t be caught in a weird middle ground between buyers and sellers like last year.

    I think this is the heart of the matter. Of all the possible negative outcomes, the one we’re enduring now isn’t the worst. We didn’t marginally stay in contention for half a year…decide to make a couple questionable deals giving up promising young talent for ‘proven’ bats…and have no choice but to hold on to Lee. If this hitting drought would have commenced on July 15th, we’d be doubly screwed.
    I’m all for gathering talent wherever we can find it (e.g., Raburn)…but if we had the choice, isn’t our top priority corner infielders? (Assuming no one’s going to surrender a decent catcher).

  18. built2crash on May 14th, 2010 9:22 am
  19. JMHawkins on May 14th, 2010 9:31 am

    If they do get Ryan Raburn from the Tigers, I will know that Dave is secretly on retainer (see Langerhans, Ryan).

    I’m quite certain he is not on retainer (see Colome, Jesus).

  20. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2010 9:38 am

    If the team is going to rebuild, it should truly commit the money and time to rebuilding, full on. Like the Rays did.

    The Rays didn’t commit money- their payroll last year at $63 million is below MLB average. They committed years of being horrible and drafting well, and they STILL aren’t drawing all that hot (1.8 million attendance in 2009, a year after playing in the World Series).

    Or take the Indians, who blew up their team in 2002, have a solid management team, have made good trades and developed good players… and their reward is a grand total of one division title, and, oh, they’re drawing 15,000 fans a game so far in 2010, after winning 65 games last year. Is that the model you’re wanting the Mariners to follow?

    I’m saying that we’ve seen how the theory of getting league average players can flop over badly.

    We’ve seen nothing of the sort. We’ve seen that sometimes, you get lucky when you try grabbing undervalued assets (Branyan, Death to Flying Things, Aardsma), and sometimes, you don’t (Figgins, Lee, Snell, Wilson, Bradley). A strategy of “Get above-average players” is so mindless as to make Bill Bavasi’s record as a GM look like genius- what MLB GM DOESN’T want a team with 25 above-average players? Have you considered for a minute why such a team doesn’t exist- not even the Yankees, with limitless salary budget, have this kind of roster?

  21. Rick Banjo on May 14th, 2010 9:45 am

    The only thing I see here that I find disturbing is the difference in numbers between what the M’s have to do to contend and what they have to do to win outright. They’ll have to win their in-division games for a month solid to pull that off, and then do you see this team as it is now making a world series run?

    If not, sell.

  22. Hopmacker on May 14th, 2010 9:46 am

    If the team is going to rebuild, it should truly commit the money and time to rebuilding, full on. Like the Rays did.

    Didn’t know the Rays committed a lot of money to their rebuilding. Yes, they had several number onepicks, signed them, but really, there isn’t a significant amount of funds dedicated to that outfit. The current product is a result of getting a lot of high draft picks, and wisely using them.

    Get above-average players, and when they slump, they’re merely average.

    Get average players, and when they slump, they’re… well, they’re 2/3rds of the 2010 M’s lineup on any given day.

    OK, name some above average players that are out there and what it would take to get them.

    As well, I would think that players slump and also have hot streaks. At any given time, by measure, their value can be above or below what is expected. I think it might be similar to trying to guess the peak and valley of the stock market, and try to time your investment. You can miss some return. Over a larger sample size, players will be at what is expected in most cases. I think this is called “regression to the mean” or something like that…..

    Throwing money and resources out there is easy and is an easy answer. Doing it wisely is the hard part. Money and resources are finite, except for some degree to the Sox and Yankees.

  23. Hopmacker on May 14th, 2010 9:47 am

    OK, what eponymous coward said, only I was later!

  24. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2010 9:51 am

    They’ll have to win their in-division games for a month solid to pull that off, and then do you see this team as it is now making a world series run?

    History has shown us that once you are in the playoffs, the regular season record’s much less relevant (otherwise we’d be discussing the 2001 World Series champion Seattle Mariners). The key’s to get in.

  25. 6-4-3 on May 14th, 2010 9:54 am

    A rotation with Felix pitching like last season, Lee, Bedard pitching well and staying in the rotation, and the Fister and Vargas we’ve seen so far seems pretty dominant. Bring the offense to expected levels of production and this seems like a .600 team to me. On the other hand, this relies on lots of things going perfectly and that rarely happens. Bringing in more offensive punch would help for sure.

  26. Chris_From_Bothell on May 14th, 2010 9:59 am

    They committed years of being horrible and drafting well, and they STILL aren’t drawing all that hot (1.8 million attendance in 2009, a year after playing in the World Series).

    Apples and oranges – ML baseball as attraction in Florida is not the same as it is in the NW, 2 different markets. And why measure the success of a ballclub in attendance?

    A strategy of “Get above-average players” is so mindless as to make Bill Bavasi’s record as a GM look like genius- what MLB GM DOESN’T want a team with 25 above-average players?

    This one, apparently, since beside Lee and Figgins he’s brought in average or below-average players this year.

  27. amnizu on May 14th, 2010 10:07 am

    A rotation with Felix pitching like last season, Lee, Bedard pitching well and staying in the rotation, and the Fister and Vargas we’ve seen so far seems pretty dominant. Bring the offense to expected levels of production and this seems like a .600 team to me. On the other hand, this relies on lots of things going perfectly and that rarely happens. Bringing in more offensive punch would help for sure.

    The problem with this is we probably won’t see Bedard until June and he will need time to work up his arm strength which means more bullpen innings. On top of that, RRS has been horrible and I think we can all admit that Vargas and Fister have over performed thus far. You can expect both of them to adjust back somewhat
    .
    The M’s have 16 games left in May. 3 vs TB, 3 vs SD, 2 vs Detroit and 1 vs Minnesota that’s 10 of the 16 against teams with a combined .600+ winning percentage. The facts are they will probably be way worse off at the end of May than today.

  28. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 10:08 am

    At some point I think we have to stop beating the “bad luck” drum, and make some hard changes, just to shake things up (which is a nice baseball cliche way of saying, to vigorously change the direction of our current magnetic north– er, south, as the case may be).

    I think it’s telling that EVERYONE is underperforming (except Guti– and I’m only talking position players here). And even he is regressing over the past few weeks. Is that bad luck? Or something more difficult that we can’t quite figure the math on yet?

    Two guys I really liked initially, but now see some parallels to, are Don Wakamatsu and Ty Willingham. They were absolutely the right guys to bring in and right sinking ships and change bad attitudes in a locker room. They were the right guys to help weed out the problems, and to begin to nurture a healthier attitude on the field.

    But neither shows the hunger, aggression, drive, and pure DESIRE to do what you ultimately need to do to be a coach at any high level– y’know, to win.

    Even if we go back to last year, we won a lot more than expected, which made his managing skills a moot question– but I don’t think random batting orders, and excessive bunting, would be considered excellent managing anywhere else under different circumstances. Even last year folks were complaining about some of his decisions, but the wins quieted the questions pretty quickly.

    What happens if we equate last year’s team with being blessed with great luck (our winning % in 1 run games) versus considering this team’s string of misfortunate and bad luck?

    Maybe we need a manager whose win-loss percentage is influenced by decisions greater than luck (whether bad or good).

    This is not an indictment of Wak as a person. I love the guy, and want him to succeed. But I honestly, when stepping back, viewing things as objectively as possible, don’t see him as the guy making tough/brilliant decisions that are going to change the course of a game in a late October playoff series.

    I really can’t picture that. Sadly.

    But I sure do appreciate all the work he’s done to bring back hope here in Seattle (which is really what drives our frustrations this year– we had hope again). And I also appreciate how he made the clubhouse a friendly place for the players again.

    That was no small feat. And should be duly appreciated. But now it’s time to focus on winning, and build towards that (not talking about this season– but beyond). And I fear Wak might not be the right guy to lead us there.

    I would actually appreciate people giving reasons why this could be a wrong thought. ‘Cause like I said, I really like Wak. A lot.

  29. JMHawkins on May 14th, 2010 10:08 am

    Get above-average players, and when they slump, they’re merely average.

    Why stop there? Why not build a team chock full of Hall of Famers, then when they slump, they’re merely All-Stars. Everyone talks about trading for Adrian Gonzales to be our 1B, hell, he ought to be our backup. Pujols should be starting…

    Okay, back to reality. While I agree that to be a playoff contender, a team can’t average league average, it has to average 2.5 to 3 WAR per position. But very few teams will be build with a lineup and rotation full of 2.5 WAR guys. Instead, you’ll have a bunch of 2.0 WAR guys, a couple of 1.5 WAR role-players, and a handfull of 4+ superstars.

    The M’s have their handful of superstars: Ichiro!, Gutierrez, Felix, and Lee. Figure you need +42 WAR total to be a playoff contender. Those four guys right there will get you nearly halfway there. Call it +18 as a group.

    Now you’ve got roughly 12-13 remaining impact roster spots (7 in the lineup, 3 in the rotation, aggregate 2 or 3 for the bench and bullpen) who need to contrubte +24 WAR. An average of +2 each, or league average.

    If the M’s could backfill behind Felix,Lee,Ichiro,Guti with league average players, they’d be a playoff contender.

    Problem comes when you have massive holes in the roster. Our DH tandem is replacement level (maybe worse). That’s +0 WAR. To make up for that, we need another Guti. Catcher is the same – we need another Ichiro to make up for that. Then they have a whole host of guys (Wilson, Kotchman, the Perennial LF Question, the three guys at the back of the rotation) that profiled out as +1.5 average going into the season. Between those six positions, you’ve got a 3.0 WAR deficit, which means another Felix to make up for that.

    The only reason the team needs more star power is in order to keep carrying the replacement level regulars they want to carry. If they would upgrade the DH to league average (generally the easiest and cheapest possible move any team could make) and C to league average (perhaps one of the hardest moves to make), then adding one more “star” would put them over the top.

    But adding a star – Gonzales for instance – without fixing the two potholes in the lineup, doesn’t do it. Replacement Level Regulars can’t be carried across the playoff line by a bunch of superstars, because you can’t get enough superstars on a roster. League Average is beautiful.

  30. everett on May 14th, 2010 10:08 am

    Above-average players don’t just grow on trees waiting to be plucked. The ones on the free market are expensive (see Chone Figgins), and the ones in the trade market cost valuable prospects. We’ve got enough stars (Ichiro, Guti, Felix, Lee) that a couple of above average players (Figgins was supposed to be one of them, and maybe Bradley if things worked out) and a roster of league average players would put you squarely in contention. If this team was an 85-86 true talent team with that, that gave them a pretty decent shot of winning 90 and being a playoff team (unfortunately there was always the chance that they go -5 instead and end up around 80, which is what its looking like now).

    edit: wow, looks like 3 of us posted just about the same thing simultaneously.

  31. Shanfan on May 14th, 2010 10:13 am

    A 5 to 10% chance of making the playoffs? You’re not being Debbie Downer; there have been so many of the last 34 years where it was 0% from day one that 5 or 10 is pleasant news.

  32. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 10:21 am

    Catcher is one of the most perplexing positions on this team. The belief that Rob Johnson is the reason Felix almost won a Cy Young needs to be overcome before we can make a move towards League Average at that position.

    Johnson’s catcher ERA is a huge “chicken or the egg” question. His defense has cost us MORE than a couple of games this year (runners moving up/scoring on passed balls, his absolute refusal to use his body to block the plate), actually being– all by himself– the difference between being 2 games out right now, or being where we are.

    Some of the guys we passed up this summer would sure have looked better behind the plate than what we have– ie, Yorbit Torrealba (batting over .300 with 13 rbi and 2 stolen bases for San Fran), or Miguel Olivio (batting over .300 with 17 rbi and 7 home runs for Colorado).

    Both FORMER M’s.

    Along with DH, our catching tandem definitely fit the mold of guys who aren’t underperforming, but rather, just aren’t all that talented at the major league level (even if “yet” is included for Adam Moore– who should be in Tacoma, playing everyday/batting everyday).

  33. gnaztee on May 14th, 2010 10:26 am

    I would actually appreciate people giving reasons why this could be a wrong thought.

    Lack of evidence? Not trying to be a jerk, but you didn’t really list any reason he’s not a good manager other than your fear that he’s not.

    As far as not showing “the hunger, aggression, drive, and pure DESIRE to do what you ultimately need to do to be a coach at any high level– y’know, to win,” there is no way ANY of us outside the organization has any handle on a manager’s attributes in these areas.

  34. z24lax on May 14th, 2010 10:27 am

    Two things here:

    I agree with MrZDevotee above about Wakamatsu, I was a fan of what he was able to get out of the guys last year, but he did that with zero pressure on him. Last years team wasn’t even considered a contender so he was playing with house money. This year he just seems overmatched, I don’t think he is very good at using the bullpen, any kind of situational managing or setting a decent consistent lineup and if you can’t do any of those well you shouldn’t be a major league manager.

    Also Dave, what about calling up the royals and seeing what alex gordon can be had for. He is still young, left handed, and has above average tools as a corner infielder. He was a top 5 pick just a few years ago so I think he’s the kind of player this team should be targetting right now as well.

  35. gnaztee on May 14th, 2010 10:28 am

    MrZDevotee, you’re right on with the catchers. My team just spent a season with two catchers we moved to the position just last year, and NEITHER hurt us over the course of the season defensively like Johnson and Moore have done the M’s in a month and a half. Their defense is painful to watch!

  36. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 10:34 am

    Gnatzee-

    But, what I’m suggesting is that an entire roster full of guys not playing to their expected level might be the initial evidence.

    Questionable rosters.

    Questionable calls with the bullpen, too.

    I think there is plenty of evidence, we just aren’t looking for it yet.

    And as for no one outside of the organization knowing if he has a desire to win, I can only go by my own observations, obviously– but I don’t see/hear any passion/drive in Wak.

    One simple “We need to win, and if these guys aren’t going to do it, we’ll find guys who are gonna”– I’m not saying that makes a difference, natually, in and of itself, but it would hint at a more compelling drive to succeed than Wak’s repetoire of:

    1) We need to put a good product on the field for the Seattle fans
    2) A lot of guys are underperforming and we’re waiting for them to straighten it out

    Which I hear most often from Wak, and again, doesn’t lead to any direct results on the field, but does at least hint at the little we know about Wak’s drive and ambition.

  37. MrGenre on May 14th, 2010 10:43 am

    Average players or not, we’re just not in the same league w/ the rest of the AL. I’d even go as far as to say that we’re now an NL team (and for the record, Philly is clearly AL-level).

    And are they really gonna make us play Tampa again??? It’s not fair! Can’t Selig help us out w/ a couple of games against Everett this summer?

  38. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 10:44 am

    Gnatzee–
    Also, I tend to view coaches in general as being similar to jockeys in horse racing.

    The horses do the work, and have the talent to win or lose, but really good jockeys know when and how often to kick, play the whip, and which line to take to help a horse’s chances of winning a race.

    They don’t do the running themselves, but they encourage and guide the talent to be as successful as possible.

    (Might be a horrible analogy, but contains the same sort of unquantifiable knack that good coaches, and good jockeys, both have– they can win with less talent than a less saavy coach/jockey).

  39. dingla on May 14th, 2010 10:44 am

    :( ;( :( but there are 128 games left to play :)

  40. Ron on May 14th, 2010 10:49 am

    Raburn is a fine idea. Chris Iannetta might be an even better one.

  41. gnaztee on May 14th, 2010 11:32 am

    MrZDevotee:

    I agree with most of your points, except I think it’s a mistake to assume a manager’s demeanor or words with the press are any kind of indicators of his passion or drive. It could very well be that he strictly adheres to the idea that his message is between the team and him, and not the outsiders. He may have very frank words with underperforming players, we don’t know…he may yell behind closed doors…we don’t know. Joe Torre always has a reserved demeanor, yet his players generally played well in New York. I think a lot of times people judge things like this based on the stimuli they respond to. Some want to get “fired up.” Some want to be “business-like” and grind out the day-to-day. So, they believe a manager who doesn’t seem this way is lacking in some way.

    In terms of everyone underperforming…they aren’t. Fister/Vargas are exceptional right now. Ichiro’s fine.

    And as far as questionable calls…well, that’s baseball. Every fan feels they have a right to question a manager’s decisions, and they do have a right. But decisions made in-game can never be objectively called “questionable.” People bring their own philosophies and beliefs when judging decisions. What’s questionable to you, with a certain set of data, may be perfectly reasonable to me, with a different set. There are no 100% plays.

  42. LongDistance on May 14th, 2010 11:35 am

    128 games left. Even if they were a .500 team, that would mean 77 wins. You’ve got them pegged, at their lowest, at 78 wins. I think you’re playing with optimism. I’ll be surprised if they get over 75, In fact, I’m thinking we’ll be lucky to see them anywhere near 75… and I’m not holding my breath. This team can go into a slump while IN a slump.

    What would have to change? A little thing here, a little thing there? No… Anyone who’s seen some recent games, sees this goes deep. It’d take a whole lotta stuff, and all at once.

    75

  43. mrt1212 on May 14th, 2010 11:47 am

    The way I look at it, the Mariners would need to win 95 games just to sniff the wild card, let alone win the division. That means playing .640 ball for the rest of the season. Is that impossible? No, but if you consider that if they were merely .500 right now they would still have to play .610 ball to get to 95 wins. It isn’t impossible but I don’t have a lot of faith that we’ll be able to turn it around given the amount of mediocrity that is sub mediocre right now.

  44. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2010 12:07 pm

    And why measure the success of a ballclub in attendance?

    The point is attendance is the basis for which you can spend to get the “above average player” you desire, because those players cost money- unless your theory is “suck for a while and build from within”- which as I pointed out is NOT any guarantee of success, or “lose money”, which won’t work longterm.

    This one, apparently, since beside Lee and Figgins he’s brought in average or below-average players this year.

    … which, as has been pointed out, is pretty true to form for EVERY GM not named Brian Cashman with an unlimited checkbook. If your strategy is “spend like the Yankees”, good luck with that.

    Something else to understand is that talent in MLB is a very far tail of a normal distribution (like a J). HOFers are very rare, All Stars are less rare, average players as less rare, replacement level players are basically free talent and common. A strategy that depends on fielding a team of All-Stars is going to be highly dependent on having a highly productive farm system AND a huge checkbook to buy any free agent you like to fill in holes- basically, the Yankees when they have a good stretch of development and are churning out Jeters, Williamses and Riveras resemble this model.

    You know, we get it: you don’t like how the 2010 Mariners were constructed (and for a number of points that have been hashed over many, many times, the bloggers and commenters here would agree with you). That being said, even with the awful year so far, Zduriencik STILL is over .500 as a Mariner GM, in about year 1.25 after getting the job of cleaning up after Bill Bavasi’s mess. It’s a bit soon to say his theories of how to construct a roster are a complete flop. The team is obviously failing to meet expectations: let’s see how he deals with it and judge from there.

  45. spankystout on May 14th, 2010 12:09 pm

    MrZdevotee
    Too bad Wak can’t whip the players like a jockey heading for this finish.

    I’m sorry but a 5-10% to make the playoffs isn’t being a “Debbie Downer.” Its being realistic. Although the underachievers should hopefully start producing. There is no guarantee they contribute before their playoff chances are almost zero. My Wife and I have joked with each other over the past 5 years, that the M’s seem to play better after they have been eliminated. If the M’s chances are 2-5% at the end of this month I expect Jack Z to start “rebuilding.”

    Any prospects anyone know that the M’s are interested in acquiring?

  46. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 12:11 pm

    Gnatzee-
    I agree with your points in principle too. Especially regarding Wak’s approach with the media.

    RE: Vargas/Fister, I did say I wasn’t including pitching in my criticism of underperforming players. Just imagine where we’d be if they were pitching closer to what we expected?

    And Ichiro! is Ichiro! He might actually be a good point, because everyone knows coaching has very little effect on Ichiro, he is meticulous about his own preparation.

    I do have to disagree somewhat, that critiques of some in-game decisions can definitely be objective. Brandon League had been the most used bullpen arm this past week, and deserved a rest. Or at the very least, deserved a short leash if the tying run comes to the plate (much less the go ahead run, in Luke Scott). Above and beyond winning– as well as Brandon League has been pitching, HE didn’t deserve to be out there in that situation given the four previous at bats.

    As someone else mentioned on the game log (or recap?), he basically has the same repertoire as Felix too (who also didn’t deserve to not win that game- btw). That’s a bit objectionable too.

    I think objective-subjective is basically a scale in any situation, with an abundance of facts/evidence leaning things towards objective, and intuition/gut feeling/personal stakes leaning things towards the purely subjective. Personal philosophies might push decisions in either direction, but they’re still on the same scale, able to be debated.

    And the lineup is definitely debatable, objectively, at some point, as far as 4-5 goes. Those numbers are ugly. I actually love Griffey, but I think I was being more objective than Wak when our two top RBI guys (Kotchman and Bradley) were batting 6 and 7 behind Lopez and Griffey for much of the first part of the season. I hope that was an objective complaint, anyways.

  47. JMHawkins on May 14th, 2010 12:22 pm

    Regarding Wak, I wonder if last year I (and a few others) fell victim to the managerial equivalent of “chemistry.” Last year, I had concerns about Wak’s in-game strategy and bullpen usage, but overall was happy with the way he seemed to get great performances out of guys like Guti, Branyan and Aardsma who had struggled elsewhere. That seemed to be his strength. Only this year, he can’t do it. Kotchman isn’t going Branyan on us, Figgins is looking like a poor man’s Willie Bloomquist, and Milton Bradley went from a guy with a temper to a guy who needs time away from the pressure to get his life back on track. I’m not saying those problems are Wak’s fault, but maybe last year’s successes weren’t his doing either. Maybe he’s not the Dog Whisperer, maybe he’s just a manager with questionable bullpen tactics and frustrating lineup choices – just like 90% of managers in the league.

    Catcher is one of the most perplexing positions on this team.

    I wonder. The last three catchers to come up through the M’s system (Clement, Johnson, Moore) have all reached the bigs as horrible defensive catchers. They all have questionable approaches behind the plate, stabbing at balls, not moving their feet, not blocking balls in the dirt. The team has a “belief system” that Johnson can call a good game, but that’s not a difficult skill – I could do that. So I wonder if there’s a structural problem with how the M’s org evaluates and develops catchers.

  48. scott19 on May 14th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Well, from the glass-half-full perspective, we can always hope that the M’s break new ground for MLB and become the first official team to win a division with a sub-.500 record. :)

  49. KaminaAyato on May 14th, 2010 12:45 pm

    Raburn is a fine idea. Chris Iannetta might be an even better one.

    Yay! Someone else who thinks Iannetta might be a good idea!!

  50. Utis on May 14th, 2010 1:18 pm

    It’s not the manager. It’s not the DH. It’s not the catchers. It’s not the bullpen. This offense is epically bad. Looking at the list below, I am not sure we can expect sufficient improvements from the majority of the struggling players. Meanwhile Ichiro, Gutierrez, Bradley, Saunders and Josh Wilson are not the type of offensive players that can carry a team for weeks at a time. A true home run threat would have great value on this team. Earl Weaver’s winning formula used to be pitching and three run homers. Playing at Safeco, we should be looking for a LH power bat capable of filling the role that Branyan had last year. It doesn’t look like anyone currently on the roster has that kind of capability.

    Name AB OPS
    Kotchman 110 .638
    Jack Wilson 75 .622
    Sweeney 37 .583
    Figgins 119 .555
    Johnson 57 .546
    Lopez 139 .522
    Griffey 80 .495
    Moore 50 .392
    Tuiasosopo 24 .367

  51. wtnuke on May 14th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Realistically, how much can we expect to get for Cliff Lee? Is he more valuable right now, or at the deadline? And will he be more valuable as a trade chip than the two picks we’ll get when he leaves?

    I’m of the opinion that if Bedard comes back and pitches well, that the rotation without Lee can be good enough to be competitive. Unfortunately, our offense isn’t good enough to be competitive, so we need to trade a real piece of our current puzzle to get something to be excited about in the future. I’d rather be excited to watch some young guys develop than just happy about seeing a Cy Young winner show off at Safeco in his contract year.

  52. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2010 1:38 pm

    This offense is epically bad

    Figgins has a lifetime BABIP of .339. His current BABIP for the season is .241.

    Jose Lopez has a lifetime BABIP of .283 and lifetime ISO of .137. His current BABIP for the season is .242, with an ISO of.065. Oh, and he has a history of going into huge slumps and then going on tears.

    Essentially, you either have to argue that Figgins/Lopez are done as effective MLB hitters, or they’re in a slump they will eventually get out of. I’ll pick the latter.

    Earl Weaver’s winning formula used to be pitching and three run homers.

    Sure. That’s great when you have Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken or whoever in the 1970′s and 1980′s. Where do the cheap home run hitters come from in 2009?

    Playing at Safeco, we should be looking for a LH power bat capable of filling the role that Branyan had last year. It doesn’t look like anyone currently on the roster has that kind of capability.

    I liked Branyan as much as the next guy, but he has a lifetime wOBA of .350, and projecting him to repeat 2009 as a 35 year old with a bad back isn’t reasonable. Michael Saunders is capable of developing into that level of hitter (though his skills will be different), given his minor league numbers, and Milton Bradley’s wOBA last year, during a DOWN year, was .345.

    There are problems with the roster (C and DH are huge piles of suck, SS is one too if Jack Wilson isn’t playing regularly, Kotchman is looking more and more like a more expensive version of Mike Carp with a worse bat and better glove), but the answer isn’t going crazy over power and ignoring everything else. Adding better talent at SS and C and installing Bradley as the everyday DH and Saunders as the everyday LF would go a long way towards making the M’s better, and wouldn’t necessarily involve adding a HR threat.

  53. luckyscrubs on May 14th, 2010 1:54 pm

    Realistically, how much can we expect to get for Cliff Lee? Is he more valuable right now, or at the deadline? And will he be more valuable as a trade chip than the two picks we’ll get when he leaves?

    The Dallas Morning News says that the Rangers would consider dealing Smoak for a player that will put them over the top. Despite the fact we are in the same division, that would be an exchange that could make sense for both teams.

    Since we are falling out of the race much quicker than expected, Jack Z will have plenty of time to field and compare offers for Lee and whoever else is in demand.

  54. Utis on May 14th, 2010 2:03 pm

    the answer isn’t going crazy over power and ignoring everything else

    Oh I wouldn’t go crazy over power. I would settle for one legitimate HR threat. The Mariner power currently is like trying to light up a big room with a 30W light bulb.

    I expect Figgins and Lopez to revert closer to career norms. That won’t be sufficient to turn the team into a serious contender. It would help them move towards .500, though.

    Bradley has the potential to be the kind of power threat the team needs but, in addition to his emotional problems, his skills may be in decline according to some scouting reports.

    I am hoping Z can find some power magic similar to Jack Cust. How about trying to get Kila Ka’aihue from KC? He is blocked there and could be a good fit at Safeco (don’t know much about his defense, however).

  55. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 2:17 pm

    The problem trading with Texas (ie Smoak) is that I’m not sure MLB will let them make trades at this point, since they’re considering taking over the day to day operations until a sale goes through. Not to mention if Texas is doing anything, they’ll be going after Roy Oswalt who just announced he’ll accept a trade as long as it’s to a contender, and has mentioned Texas as somewhere he’d be willing to go– but again, the Rangers are not in a great position right now.

    Unfortunately (regarding Smoak) but fortunately (regarding Oswalt).

  56. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 2:30 pm

    I know folks are tired of Adrian Gonzalez speculation, but I still can’t help but wonder about Cliff Lee being an attractive enticement if San Diego is still in the playoff picture and we’re NOT come July. If either Kotchman or Lopez can heat up between now and then, it could be even more interesting to SD.

    If they can’t afford to keep Gonzalez, he’s basically a rent a player, just like Lee, and a dominant pitcher is a great commodity come October.

  57. SpokaneMsFan on May 14th, 2010 2:36 pm

    Dave, I’ve seen you give similar figures in the past but in a sense isn’t something like this puting undue weight in a small sample? To expand if we think someone is a true talent, BABIP luck aside, .333 hitter, isn’t that our guess for the whole season, like in a projection system?

    I mean if I project someone to hit .333 I know very well he isn’t going to come up and get a hit literally once out of every three times. He might hit .450 for all of April but based on the knowledge I used to make my guess I now in May am going to expect a slump to come, maybe he hits .220 for this month after a prolonged o’fer. Or maybe the slump doesn’t come till July.

    Now I realize your math is right on that in order to contend we’re going to need to play ~.600 ball the rest of the year. But if one thought they would win 90 games to start the year they probably didn’t think they would win exactly 15 games each month, there most likely would be some kind of month to month variance. So with that in mind if one still thinks this is a true 90 win talent team couldn’t they manage to play .620 ball the rest of the year to cancel out the bad start, have a couple prolonged winning streaks to make up for the big losing ones?

    Like flipping a coin 1,000 times you’ll more than likely get somewhere around 500/500 but maybe the first 100 went 65/35? Or is a baseball season not long enough to allow for those things to normalize? Maybe there is an article you can point me to that shows how the luck factors involved in determining who scored more runs on a given day make it so once a game is in the books it shouldn’t be factored in with the other games in a season and allow a winning percentage rate to regress to the mean.

    Sorry to kind of ramble but to summarize it seems like you treat overall team record for the year totally different than a pitcher’s HR/FB rate (or whatever stat) where you expect that stat to normalize by the time the year is over, but the wins once in the book you seem to think should no longer be looked at as a whole with the wins going forward and only expect the team to perform at the preseason expectation level going forward. Is there a specific reason for this differentiation? Thank you.

  58. JMHawkins on May 14th, 2010 2:49 pm

    So with that in mind if one still thinks this is a true 90 win talent team couldn’t they manage to play .620 ball the rest of the year to cancel out the bad start…

    That’s the Gambler’s Falacy ec linked to above. A string of bad luck doesn’t imply that you’re due an equivalent string of good luck. You get what you get. Luck has no memory.

  59. Marinersdude83 on May 14th, 2010 2:49 pm

    A 5% chance! That sounds pretty good. I’ll put all my money on that…

  60. Hopmacker on May 14th, 2010 2:52 pm

    If the Padres are in contention as the trade deadline approaches, do you really think they are going to trade A-gone? The Padres have a club option for 2011 for $5.5MM. That is a bargain, even if he only produces 3 WAR. I would hardly think he is a “rent-a-player” given they have him for potentially one more season.

    Sometimes reality is a hard concept to grasp.

  61. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2010 3:17 pm

    Hopmacker–

    “Sometimes reality is a hard concept to grasp.”

    A little harsh as it was intended, but I agree. Cliff Lee was a combined 13.8 WAR player the past 2 years. Lopez was predicted to be 2 WAR this year.

    So you wouldn’t trade a 3 WAR 1B for a 6-7 WAR pitcher and a 2 WAR (Lopez) 3B/1B? (Padres also need depth at infield).

    And lest we forget, Lee was THE best pitcher in all of baseball in October last year.

    I guess it depends on how you view offense versus pitching, and I’m counting on the Padres to be true to their NL roots.

    For a team as offensively starved as the Mariners are, I can see where you don’t smell anything in that deal, but San Diego may be different if they’re starting pitching isn’t able to maintain.

    (Hell, if the M’s are playing bad enough, we might even be able to swing a waiver deal later in the season.)

  62. PackBob on May 14th, 2010 4:29 pm

    On the other hand, a win streak changes the to-the-end-of-year calculations. If the Mariners were to go 10-2 over the next 12 games (playing .500 ball over 24 games), they then need to play .580 ball the rest of the way to get to 90 wins.

    A win streak does wonders for the W/L. It probably doesn’t even matter where it is, as long as the players keep the faith. The Athletics did it in 2002 with a very late 20-game win streak.

    If the Mariners played .580 ball for a month, then had a 10-2 stretch, then they are on pace for 90 wins by finishing with .580 ball.

    If it would happen is another question.

  63. MKT on May 14th, 2010 6:40 pm

    I mean if I project someone to hit .333 I know very well he isn’t going to come up and get a hit literally once out of every three times. He might hit .450 for all of April but based on the knowledge I used to make my guess I now in May am going to expect a slump to come, maybe he hits .220 for this month after a prolonged o’fer.

    Unfortunately no, that’s not how statistics and probability work. Many people think that that is how “the law of averages” works, but the law of averages does NOT work that way.

    Now it is true that if you’re predicting the season as a whole, and you predict that the M’s will win say 55% of their games, then you can also very safely predict that somewhere in 2010, the Ms will have one or more cold streaks, counterbalanced with one or more hot streaks, such that overall the most likely outcome is 55% wins in the end.

    But that’s not the situation we’re currently in. We’re not predicting the season as a whole, because over a quarter of it has already gone by. Our task is to predict what percent of games the M’s will win the rest of the season. If we initially believed that the Ms would win 55% of their games, and if they have so far won 38% of their games, we have three choices:

    a. Hold fast to our pre-season estimates, and believe that the early season losses are due to random error, and therefore the Ms will win 55% of their remaining games.

    b. Use a Bayesian approach, and modify our estimates based on the observed data. Our pre-season theory said 55%. A small-but-still-substantial set of data says 38%. Our new, modified estimate will be somewhere in between, with the relative weight dependent on how confident we are of our pre-season estimate, and how large the empirical sample is. But the resulting estimate will say that the Ms will win <= 55% of their remaining games.

    c. Predict, fallaciously, that the "law of averages" will have to take hold and the Ms will magically counterbalance their cold start with a hotter-than-55% hot streak, and thus the Ms will win more than 55% of their remaining games.

    Unfortunately, there is no (legitimate) theory of statistics or probability that chooses (c). It either (a) or (b).

    Now it is true that the Ms might get lucky and win more than 55% of their remaining games. There's always a chance for luck. That's why we play the games, etc.

    But there is no theory which permits us to *expect* that the Ms will magically bounce back and win a higher percentage of games that our pre-season estimates. It is a possibility, but it requires a lot of unlikely events to take place.

    The Law of Averages does permit us to legitimately expect that Chone Figgins' batting will improve, Lopez's batting will improve, etc. But "improve" means "return to their pre-season expected levels" not "bounce higher than their pre-season expected levels".

  64. SpokaneMsFan on May 14th, 2010 7:06 pm

    I guess what I was getting at was option A there MKT. It seems that when a pitcher has a really hot start but a 0% HR/FB rate for example most Fangraphs authors or the like blame that on random error and expect it not to continue. So of course over some sample going forward they would be post an above average rate and in the end wind up with an averagish rate. But with wins losses it seems they look only at the option B you present, I was just wondering if there is some reason option A is completely dismissed with wins losses.

  65. MKT on May 14th, 2010 8:20 pm

    I was just wondering if there is some reason option A is completely dismissed with wins losses.

    Option A is exactly what Dave was using in the second paragraph of his posting … Option B is what he used in his third and fourth paragraph. In his fifth he used Option C or more accurately, he pointed out that in order for us to believe that the Ms will contend, and barring some miraculous transactions by Zduriencik, we’d have to believe in Option C. And Option C is basically the same one that Royals fans and Pirates fans use each April if they hope that their teams will contend: pray for a miracle.

  66. Naliamegod on May 14th, 2010 9:01 pm

    Earl Weaver’s winning formula used to be pitching and three run homers.

    That is not correct. His winning forumla was pitching, defense and three run homeruns, but he has been on the record for saying that he only used that strategy because it was the best use of the enviroment. He noted in his book that for teams like the Royals (who played in a giant pitcher’s park back then) going for speed instead of power is a good move and that his team always had problems playing at KC because of that.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.