The Problem With The Protection Theory

Dave · June 29, 2010 at 10:54 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Of all the reasons given for re-acquiring Russ Branyan, perhaps the one that resonates most with people is the hope that having a guy who can hit the ball 450 feet may help the underachievers in the line-up to perform better. There’s no doubt that Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez, and Milton Bradley have all been miserable at the plate this year, producing far less than they did a year ago, and beyond any reasonable expectation of their performance for 2010. Now, with Branyan in the line-up to provide some power, a good amount of people are hoping that those guys will get better pitches to hit, and their production will rise over the course of the season because of it.

There’s two problems with this, however. The first one is that there’s no evidence to support the protection theory. It has been studied many times, and there’s been no link found between the performance of a batter and quality of the player hitting behind him. It’s a theory based on speculation, not on data, which should always make you take pause.

However, that’s not the only issue, nor the one I want to focus on, because making the data argument just leads us back down the tired road of people suggesting we’re too tied up in numbers (read: facts) and miss the human aspect of the game. So, instead, let’s talk about that human aspect, and the side that never gets brought up when the protection theory is espoused – the pitcher.

Pitchers want to get hitters out. In general, pitchers who get to the major leagues and stick around are pretty good at this singular job. It’s what they do, and what they get paid for. However, a key assumption of the protection theory is that major league pitchers are dumber than a box of rocks.

Seriously, here’s the basic theory – if there’s a good hitter on deck, pitchers will want to avoid pitching to that guy with a runner on base, so they’ll throw more strikes in order to avoid walks. These strikes are apparently meatballs, and because the batter in front of the feared hitter is now getting good pitches to hit, he’ll get more hits and get on base more often. The theory demands the pitchers actually pitch in such a way that they fail at the original stated goal, which is to avoid pitching to good hitters with runners on base. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that pitchers are dumb enough to not notice that this suboptimal pitching strategy allows the guy in front of the good hitter to get more hits, as they just continue pounding fastballs in the strike zone that Mediocre Hitter X can whack.

Seriously, this is the backbone of the theory, and it doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would a pitcher rather give up a hit to a mediocre batter than a walk? They wouldn’t, and they don’t. If a pitcher saw that the way he was attacking guys in front of the sluggers was allowing more baserunners (a necessary result of the idea that guys like Figgins will perform better than they have been), then they would pitch differently, because they would actually be faced with more situations where the slugger had a chance to drive in runs, not less.

With just a few exceptions, pitchers are not dumb. If they can get Chone Figgins to hit .230 by pitching him the way they are now, sans home run hitter behind him, they’re not going to suddenly start pitching him in a way that will let him hit .280. That’s counterproductive to their entire goal. If the protection theory was legitimate, and pitchers did indeed throw meatballs to guys batting in front of big sluggers, they would quickly figure out that this wasn’t a very good idea, and that they would be better off pitching each hitter in a way that gives them the absolute best chance of getting that guy out, regardless of who is on deck.

Which is exactly what they do. This is how pitchers work – get the guy out at the plate, worry about the next guy when he steps in. They do not throw easily whacked fastballs down the middle because they’re living in fear of the guy on deck. It’s just not reality.

Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez, and Milton Bradley should hit better the rest of the year, but it won’t because pitchers are finally giving them pitches they can tee off on due to the presence of Russ Branyan.

Comments

70 Responses to “The Problem With The Protection Theory”

  1. The_Waco_Kid on June 29th, 2010 11:06 am

    I think it could take pressure off Lopez, and maybe Bradley, and hopefully they won’t feel the need to be the main power hitters on the team. Lopez should not bat cleanup for any team.

  2. NiceThrowLupus on June 29th, 2010 11:12 am

    I still feel that, as long as he stays healthy for the next few weeks, Branyon gets flipped in another deal, by the deadline or maybe before Sept 1st. The “protection theory” is just posturing by the Mariners, IMO.

  3. gerrythek on June 29th, 2010 11:16 am

    To take things to extreme: would Barry Bonds have been walked as many times if Pujols were batting behind him? If you answer no, then “protection” is real, it’s just a matter of degree.

  4. whigheaded on June 29th, 2010 11:23 am

    It is truly a pleasure, on a day to day basis, to read your posts. Particularly ones like this one, that treat old-fashioned thinking like a pinata. Thanks.

  5. andoq on June 29th, 2010 11:27 am

    I always interpreted ‘protection’ more like this: Pitchers often talk about “reaching back” in critical situations, and pitchers seem to throw harder and with a different pitch selection when in relief than when starting. I take this to mean that a pitcher generally has a limited number of A+ pitches that can be thrown in a game, and a limited amount within an inning as well (this is a common video game mechanic as well). Other than that, they have to rely on pitches that are not maximum effort, otherwise they will tire too quickly. Each of these A+ pitches is more tiring than a normal pitch. So, ‘protection’ from a good batter is the fact that the pitcher may choose to save those A+ pitches for later.

    Or, more specifically: pitchers can no longer throw as hard as they can against Chone figgins knowing that they can underhand the ball when they get to Kotchman, and he’ll still ground out to second.

  6. Mike Snow on June 29th, 2010 11:27 am

    I consider it well-established that protection within the lineup order is about as meaningful as lineup order itself. It hardly matters whether Jeff Kent bats in front of Barry Bonds or vice versa, or where they are in the lineup, except you mostly want Bonds higher up in the order just so he gets more times at bat.

    In this context, though, the argument is not just about protection as such. Even if Branyan was the kind of hitter to provide meaningful protection, he can’t simultaneously bat behind Figgins, Lopez, Kotchman, and Bradley (especially not Kotchman, since Branyan replaces him). The theory is more that wherever Branyan is, the presence of that dimension in the lineup alters how the opposing pitcher has to approach it, and helps the other hitters up and down the order. Presumably you could bat Branyan eighth and it would still apply.

    Part of the problem here is the theory is both harder to demonstrate and harder to falsify. Trying it would likely get you to about the same place as Catcher ERA. But if the theory seems “obvious” to some, the resistance to analysis almost adds to the appeal, kind of like chemistry.

  7. dlukas on June 29th, 2010 11:29 am

    Do you have any links to research on protection theory? Would be very interested in the methodolgy.

    I don’t think the premise is that pitchers are stupid and can be gamed. I think it’s that with the incremental addition into the lineup of a good hitter, you take flexibility away from the pitcher in certain situation. Which really is less about protection and more about better hitters = better hitting.

  8. GoldenGutz on June 29th, 2010 11:34 am

    I never really cared about protection and all that crap. But the only thing I would agree with is that if you have someone that is fast on the bases, your going to get more FB because the pitcher doesn’t want to put a runner in scoring position.

  9. Salty Dog on June 29th, 2010 11:35 am

    What’s going to happen is that all of the guys who’ve been hitting way below their career norms (Lopez, Figgins, etc) are going to regress to the mean in the second half (thus hitting above their career norms for that time), and those who espouse the protection theory will say that acquiring Branyan is the reason why.

  10. Wallingfjord on June 29th, 2010 11:35 am

    To take things to extreme: would Barry Bonds have been walked as many times if Pujols were batting behind him? If you answer no, then “protection” is real, it’s just a matter of degree.

    This presumes that we’re talking about two excellent hitters in a row.

  11. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on June 29th, 2010 11:41 am

    Amen, Dave.

  12. spankystout on June 29th, 2010 11:43 am

    I to an extent agree that the ‘protection theory’ is false. It may only apply (if at all) to the superstar bats like Pujols. I don’t think it results in meatballs aplenty, maybe one extra fastball in the AB, or maybe no change in the pitchers approach at all, I really don’t know. The only way to know is a comprehensive study of pitch selection, location, before, and after ‘big bats.’ Either way, a terrible singles-hitting lineup is not concerning to opponents. This move improves the lineup considerably (if Branyan stays healthy). Now we shouldn’t have to suffer watching Lopez attempt to be a cleanup hitter, with an OBP below .300….you are terrible Lopez I would rather watch Eric Byrnes play softball.

  13. Paul B on June 29th, 2010 11:45 am

    The first time I recall protection being studied was on one of the early Bill James Abstracts. So the first study I’m aware of was back in the SABR dinosaur days.

  14. SCL on June 29th, 2010 11:51 am

    In the case of Figgins, I think he’s a good candidate to get more hittable pitches before a bopper. He’s a cruddy hitter with a good eye, right now #9 in the AL in walks. If I were a pitcher facing Figgins I would think more about pitching to contact.

  15. Shanfan on June 29th, 2010 11:51 am

    I think the ‘protection theory’ is classicly more about pitching around a productive hitter to get to weaker hitters, especially in certain situations. You have to string together two or more of these hitters – especially if they can go yard at anytime – to witness any effect. It’s about making the other team ‘pick their poison’, so at least one of the good hitters might get something better to hit. If you have a bunch of slappies who aren’t even slapping well, one big bat isn’t going to do anything to adjust the other teams strategy. Slappy is slappy and isn’t going to get anything better to hit ever, but Feared Bat #1 might. That’s the theory at least whether the facts bear it out or not. But it does get one of the slappys hitting below .200 out of your line-up.

  16. abcd on June 29th, 2010 11:54 am

    In the case of Figgins/Lopez/Bradley. I think maybe Lopez will hit noticeably better, but the other two are dead weight at thist point, totally sunk costs. They aren’t going to get better. I still think there is something wrong with Figgins that isn’t allowing him to swing the bat with as much force as last year. He is fine standing there and taking pitches, but when there is a pitch he’d have driven in the gap last year, now he is weaking turning it into a DP.

  17. MKT on June 29th, 2010 12:06 pm

    What Dave could’ve mentioned (I’m sure he’s aware of this, e.g. I think Tom Tango’s _The Book_ covers this topic) is that there are two definitions of “protection”: “strong protection” is the kind that he’s talking about, and either doesn’t exist or is weak enough to ignore almost all of the time. I.e. it fits in with Dave’s description.

    “Weak protection” most certainly does exist, and we see it all the time: the pitcher pitches around or even intentionally walks a batter in order to pitch to a weak batter (often the pitcher, in the NL).

    If that next batter wasn’t such a wuss hitter, the pitcher wouldn’t issue that walk, or at least wouldn’t be so eager to.

    Note the irony of this weak protection however: the weak hitter causes the batter in front of him to get MORE walks (and presumably a higher OBP) albeit fewer hits and certainly fewer XBHs.

    If we provide “protection” by replacing that weak hitter with a better one (e.g. we pinch hit for the pitcher), we’ll probably see a *decrease* in the “protected” hitter’s OBP. But perhaps an increase in SLG … what’s the net effect on the hitter, and what’s the net effect on expected runs scored? It gets complicated and depends on whether the other manager makes optimal decisions about when to pitch around the hitter but suffice it to say that Dave’s overall argument holds up.

    There probably are synergies (as opposed to protection of the preceding batter) of the sort that people here have already mentioned: more need for the pitcher to bear down instead of coasting through the weak part of the lineup; more hits and baserunners in general, making it harder for the pitcher to get through 7 innings or 6 or whatever number; and more baserunners, forcing the pitcher to throw from the stretch and/or throw more fastballs and/or get distracted, etc. I.e. good hitters do provide benefits to their teammates in the lineup — but not via the stereotypical protection route.

  18. firova2 on June 29th, 2010 12:07 pm

    Beat-writer-not-to-be-named is absolutely crowing in the wake of this deal, acting like his analysis refutes some experiment that had been made to have no power at all in the lineup. It is a correlation/causation problem but he writes like the Branyan deal is some kind of personal vindication. Tiresome in the extreme.

  19. sgreen13 on June 29th, 2010 12:25 pm

    I tend to think this theory is actually reversed. The more men on base the better the power hitters are. As the 2010 Mariners have so kindly shown us… who cares if you hit a solo home run. It’s only 1 run. The damage come from those 2-3 run shots. Look at the series with the Brewers. How fast did the 2nd game change with the 3 run HR? I’d agree somewhat that the solo shot that followed put them ahead, but without the 3 run HR we are really no worse for the wear. I’ve always thought that Bradley/Kotchman were better hitters when Ichiro and Figgins are both able to get on base because no one wants to see the bases loaded with 1 out or less. It will be the same with Branyan. If Ichiro and Figgins/Guti can get on base consistently he should do well. Does he have more power than either Bradley or Kotchman – Yes. Will we benefit from it – Hopefully. But there is always the thinking that this is the 2010 Mariners. Even with Ichiro/Figging/Guti on base why not walk in a run with Branyan and pitch to Lopez or Sweeney get the grounder turn two and get out of the inning with the 1 run.

    Ladies and Gentlemen…. ahh it’s been said too many times…

  20. New England Fan on June 29th, 2010 12:26 pm

    The justification that said beat-writer provides is that with Branyan in the lineup, Lopez (in particular) may stop trying to pull every pitch he sees out of the park. Instead when the pitcher pitches to contact he may actually make contact instead of disturbing the air currents around home plate

  21. sgreen13 on June 29th, 2010 12:27 pm

    sorry it was the 1st game with the Brewers

  22. thebigp708 on June 29th, 2010 12:32 pm

    there’s no evidence to support the protection theory

    Jeff Kent’s MVP trophy would beg to differ sir.

  23. TripleAvery on June 29th, 2010 12:32 pm

    I think we’re all forgetting to ask a key question concerning this argument in the first place: Is Branyan going to be batting second again this year? Pitchers aren’t going to change the approach they have vs. Ichiro!, nor will it matter.

  24. gwangung on June 29th, 2010 12:38 pm

    Jeff Kent’s MVP trophy would beg to differ sir.

    As he said, there’s no evidence to support protection.

  25. Chris_From_Bothell on June 29th, 2010 12:39 pm

    If the protection theory was legitimate, and pitchers did indeed throw meatballs to guys batting in front of big sluggers, they would quickly figure out that this wasn’t a very good idea, and that they would be better off pitching each hitter in a way that gives them the absolute best chance of getting that guy out, regardless of who is on deck.

    Which is exactly what they do. This is how pitchers work – get the guy out at the plate, worry about the next guy when he steps in. They do not throw easily whacked fastballs down the middle because they’re living in fear of the guy on deck. It’s just not reality.

    Wish we had a local beat writer who would present this premise, plus the previous points about strong protection v. weak protection, to several pitchers and hitters. The theory here is sound based on everything we can observe about the game as fans. But I do wonder if this is also how the guys actually playing the game think.

    Any former players, and/or current or former sports psychologists, in the house?

  26. Parzival on June 29th, 2010 12:46 pm

    Alternately, it affects the psyche of the other batters, rather than that of the pitcher.

    It’s quite possible that a significant part of the statistical fall-off this season stems from batters lacking confidence in the hitters behind them.

    If Bradley, Lopez, Figgins, etc. relax, make contact, and significantly improve their batting averages over the course of the next few weeks, we can safely say that the “protection” of a reliable clean-up hitter helped them. Even though the term is not a good description of the underlying forces.

    (I haven’t run the numbers on splits between the rest of the team’s BA on days Sweeney or Bard were in the line-up, vs days when they weren’t. But just based off fuzzy recollections of box scores, it seems to me that we may have already seen a version of this effect at work this season)

  27. Dave on June 29th, 2010 1:04 pm

    Alternately, it affects the psyche of the other batters, rather than that of the pitcher.

    There’s no evidence this is true.

    It’s quite possible that a significant part of the statistical fall-off this season stems from batters lacking confidence in the hitters behind them.

    So, your assertion is that Chone Figgins struggled to start the season because he didn’t have any faith in Franklin Gutierrez (who was hitting exceptionally well)? Because he doesn’t have the reputation of being a good hitter? Then why did the team not have any faith in Milton Bradley, who led the AL in OPS two years ago and has consistently been an offensive force.

    f Bradley, Lopez, Figgins, etc. relax, make contact, and significantly improve their batting averages over the course of the next few weeks, we can safely say that the “protection” of a reliable clean-up hitter helped them.

    No, you can’t.

    (I haven’t run the numbers on splits between the rest of the team’s BA on days Sweeney or Bard were in the line-up, vs days when they weren’t. But just based off fuzzy recollections of box scores, it seems to me that we may have already seen a version of this effect at work this season).

    I’m sorry, but you think that guys relaxed when Josh Bard was in the line-up?

  28. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 1:06 pm

    I think the ‘protection theory’ is classicly more about pitching around a productive hitter to get to weaker hitters, especially in certain situations. You have to string together two or more of these hitters – especially if they can go yard at anytime – to witness any effect

    I think you are absolutely right … and vastness of your correctness simply beared repeating.

    Any former players, and/or current or former sports psychologists, in the house?

    Not at the professional level, but at the collegiate level. Baseball is such a mental game with margins of error for squaring up a ball vs. popping it up measured in 1/4″ increments. If you think something is going to work – it is more than likely going to work. When “it” stops working – someone will come up with something else that may make you think “it” will work. Probably not the best type of theory to espouse to those who like to quantify and analyze, but it is what it is. BTW: I like stats too.

    Having the bopper in the middle of the lineup is going to help everyone (mentally) – especially when they know he could plant a bomb in the seats at any time. Whether that results in how they are being pitched to individually by the opposing pitcher – I doubt it … I think Dave is spot-on.

    Case in point from the “mental” perspective: Milton Bradley … he is inside his own head. If he ever gets out of his own head, he may start to produce again.

    Figgins: It may be a mechanical flaw with his LH swing finish against a very stiff and upright front leg (kind of like a golf swing finish would look) – resulting in a small drop of his left shoulder and hands (maybe as much as 1/4 to 1/2″ -thereby resulting in non-squareness on ballness syndrome. At least that is the way it looks on TV. Not seeing it in person, there is no true way to tell – and there are a lot of paid professionals studying tape on him to help him “figure it out.” He pops up or flat out misses way too many pitches for a guy with his skill set. Something is wrong mechanically.

  29. Leroy Stanton on June 29th, 2010 1:25 pm

    That’s some fine work there, Dave. Even with your stat hand tied behind your back.

  30. brianf on June 29th, 2010 1:46 pm

    I’m with Shanfan and msfanmike…

    I always interpreted protection as preventing the pitcher from nibbling at the #3 hitter, as the #4 hitter would make you pay. The #3 hitter is protected so he’ll see more centered pitches, less junk.

    In a lineup without protection, you can throw your breaking ball in a 3-2 count, because if you walk him, who cares, you’ll just double up Kotchman/Lopez/Figgins anyways.

    Not sure I believe it, but that’s how I always understood it regardless.

  31. IllinoisMsFan on June 29th, 2010 1:48 pm

    But we have a beat writer that say this isn’t true? He’s in the clubhouse and sits in the press box!

  32. Dave on June 29th, 2010 1:51 pm

    In a lineup without protection, you can throw your breaking ball in a 3-2 count, because if you walk him, who cares, you’ll just double up Kotchman/Lopez/Figgins anyways.

    Guess what? Figgins, Bradley, Lopez, and Kotchman are all walking less than they did last year.

  33. Mid80sRighty on June 29th, 2010 2:13 pm

    Any former players, and/or current or former sports psychologists, in the house?

    Like msfanmike, not at the professional level, but I was a collegiate pitcher. And I can tell you from a college pitcher’s perspective we didn’t care who was coming up next in the lineup. The objective was to always get the batter out. The only time a batter might see more fastballs is when a runner (potential base stealer) was on base. Hard for catchers to throw out a baserunner when he’s waiting for a curve or change to reach the plate…or even worse, if the ball goes to the backstop.

    In a lineup without protection, you can throw your breaking ball in a 3-2 count, because if you walk him, who cares, you’ll just double up Kotchman/Lopez/Figgins anyways.

    Yes and no. Don’t over think it. Again, pitchers just don’t really care who’s up next. They’re focusing on the player at the plate. And they’re really never ok with walking anyone.

  34. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 2:17 pm

    Guess what? Figgins, Bradley, Lopez, and Kotchman are all walking less than they did last year.

    I should probably be smart enough to let brianf fight his own battles, but my take on his point is that the pitcher is not concerned about potentially walking the batter on a 3-2 pitch … thereby being more confident in throwing the breaking ball … resulting in the inevitble hack and a miss by the afformentioned quadrumvirate of doom within our lineup.

    Brian’s point is very defendable and based on how well he stated it, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he at one time pitched … at least at some level – where breaking balls were involved.

  35. Gomez on June 29th, 2010 2:19 pm

    I’m not sure the key argument with this move is that Branyan protects anyone. We’ve long since diluted the myth of lineup protection. The rest of the lineup still faces an onus to produce whether or not Branyan’s in the lineup.

    The real argument is that Branyan simply adds sorely-lacking offensive run production over the incumbents at his position. Whether or not he significantly does is certainly a matter for debate in itself… and probably more relevant to what he adds to the team than any discussion of whether or not Branyan protects the lineup.

  36. Leroy Stanton on June 29th, 2010 2:20 pm

    What the hell is Figgins going to do with a fastball anyway? Single, maybe?

  37. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 2:27 pm

    Yes and no. Don’t over think it. Again, pitchers just don’t really care who’s up next. They’re focusing on the player at the plate. And they’re really never ok with walking anyone.

    Thank you mid80′s righty (who I am old enough to have potentially played against) … and it makes me wish I had said “less concerned with walking a batter” – instead of “not concerned” … when commenting on brian’s take. Pitchers want to get everyone out and not let anyone advance (ever) as best I can recall.

  38. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 2:33 pm

    What the hell is Figgins going to do with a fastball anyway? Single, maybe?

    Both funny and correct. Nicely done.

    It points to the very reason why he should not be hitting against that real stiff front leg (needs some flex). He has a power hitters finish – from a pea shooters body.

    You also point out the obvoius thing that should be occurring, but is not. Figgins hitting singles is exactly what we want from him. Chone: Please oblige – Leroy and the rest of us have challenged you.

  39. spankystout on June 29th, 2010 2:45 pm

    The whole team can’t hit a fastball. The Mariners have collected an -58.2 wFB the worst in baseball thus far. They also posted a negative against every pitch except the cutter 4.7 wCT.

  40. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 2:47 pm

    The whole team can’t hit a fastball

    Vice a couple obvious players who can

  41. spankystout on June 29th, 2010 3:00 pm

    In the interest of full disclosure for Msfanmike. The Mariners this year who can hit a FB.

    Leading the group of course the annointed one with a 2.1wFB. Not scary considering he only hits singles. Second is Josh Bard’s very small sample with a 1.6wFB. Third place is Langerhans, 1.4wFB. And the last Mariner to post a positive value, and he also plays most days is Guti with a .2wFB. So only two regulars have posted positive values. One of which (I stated above) does little with the FB and the other is barely above 0.0. So I would say that is a collective failure.

  42. msfanmike on June 29th, 2010 3:11 pm

    In the interest of full disclosure for Msfanmike. The Mariners this year who can hit a FB.

    I was agreeing with you … with the additional edification of the obvious (annointed one as you say) and Guti – being my choices based on visual evidence only. Thank you for confirming it though – with the statistical supplement.

    Bard and Langherhans don’t count yet in the equation. Way too small (infinitesimal) of a sample size IMO. I am surprised they would even be mentioned, but that is not a direct poke in the eye at you.

    We were/are in agreement.

  43. Utis on June 29th, 2010 3:19 pm

    Protection isn’t the only conventional wisdom involved in this move. There is also “good hitting is contagious”.

    Have there been any studies comparing how the same hitter performs on good vs bad offensive teams? This is hard to do because of park effects, etc. On a poor offensive team, a hitter feels more pressure to perform which might adversely affect results. On a good offensive team, there are more opportunities with runners on base which works in the hitter’s favor. On a good offensive team, pitchers have to make more stress pitches which tires them out. One example from recent Mariner history is Adrian Beltre who is having his best hitting season since 2004 for the Red Sox.

    Viewed this way, improving any spot in the lineup could have a multiplicative effect throughout the lineup beyond the improvement in the one spot.

  44. brianf on June 29th, 2010 4:00 pm

    Guess what? Figgins, Bradley, Lopez, and Kotchman are all walking less than they did last year.

    Horse, meet water.

  45. spankystout on June 29th, 2010 4:20 pm

    No problem Msfanmike, my intent wasn’t to be snarky, or disagreeable.

    Anyways….yeah they are terrible. Even the newly acquired big-bat-Branyan hasn’t posted a positive FB pitch value. The muscle sits at -.6wFB, its not horrific like Lopez’s -15.5wFB-the worst FB (non)hitting Mariner. At least Cliff is pitching right now, exactly as I type that he gives up a HR! damn jinxes

  46. TomTuttle on June 29th, 2010 4:39 pm

    Bottom line:

    Good hitters are good hitters regardless of who bats where.

    Figgins, Bradley, Lopez, and Josh Wilson have all been surprises to various degrees. But when we were stuck with Griffey at DH and no one hit well in the spring. Well, we should have seen this coming.

    Get doubles and HR hitters in the winter.

    Plain and simple.

    And here’s another thought. If Ichiro wants to be a Mariner for life, then do us a favor and give up some of ur $18 mil. a year salary so we can get these kind of reinforcements.

    If John Elway can do that favor for the Denver Broncos, then Ichiro can do that for the Seattle Mariners.

  47. Dave on June 29th, 2010 4:52 pm

    Ichiro already deferred $5M per year of his salary. Here’s an idea – stop blaming the team’s best player for the flaws of the worst.

  48. TomTuttle on June 29th, 2010 5:05 pm

    I’m not. But he can always do more.

    That comes with the territory of being a franchise player, fair or not.

    And that $5 mil. is gonna be chum change pretty soon for Cliff Lee who Mariners fans will soon be wishing that he was in the rotation.

  49. Dave on June 29th, 2010 6:12 pm

    So Ichiro should work for free, then, just to make you happy?

  50. TomTuttle on June 29th, 2010 6:49 pm

    If him playing for the minimum or something close to that because of deferred salary meant we could sign 2 elite free agents (i.e. Cliff Lee & Adrian Gonzalez) then ABSOLUTELY I’d be all for it and Mariner Nation should be all for it.

    That is, if Ichiro really, really, really does want to stay here and play for no one else.

    Otherwise come 2013, he’ll go and play with someone else that has a better chance to win a ring.

    But if he really does want to be a Mariner for life and win a ring, that this is something he needs to consider since this team doesn’t have an unlimited budget like the Yankees.

  51. Dave on June 29th, 2010 6:55 pm

    Would you work for free to make your business better?

    Of course not.

  52. DMZ on June 29th, 2010 7:06 pm

    It’s not even his business. It’s not like they’re offering him equity.

    Given the kind of personnel decisions Ichiro! has seen in his time as a Mariner, should he have any faith that some further deferral would result in the right players coming in?

    And, moreover, what are the odds that when the M’s are paying that deferred salary people will complain about how Ichiro’s so selfish he’s hurting the team even from retirement? 100%? 200%?

  53. CCW on June 29th, 2010 7:10 pm

    He wouldn’t be working for free. He would be deferring payment. People defer payment from their business to increase the likelihood of future success all the time. Owners of closely held businesses frequently loan money to the company so that it can be successful in the future (when they will presumably be paid back). If Ichiro considers himself so invested in the M’s as to care about its future in that way, I can see him doing it. But I certainly wouldn’t expect him to. Or hold it against him if he doesn’t want to.

  54. DMZ on June 29th, 2010 7:12 pm

    But I certainly wouldn’t expect him to. Or hold it against him if he doesn’t want to.

    HE IS ALREADY DOING IT

  55. CCW on June 29th, 2010 7:13 pm

    DMZ’s point is the key: it’s not his business. Ownership obviously isn’t going to give him equity, but they aren’t even going to give him any control. He’s just an employee, and not many employees would do that.

  56. CCW on June 29th, 2010 7:18 pm

    Dude, I’m on your side. I know he’s already doing it. That’s two posts up.

  57. DMZ on June 29th, 2010 7:23 pm

    I know! That’s — argh

  58. Naliamegod on June 29th, 2010 7:32 pm

    I’m not an expert, but I am pretty sure the Player’s union is not really a fan of players deffering or giving up large parts of their salary (Didn’t that happen with Alex Rodriguez one time?).

  59. mafiatees on June 29th, 2010 7:33 pm

    I was finding the Branyan move curious as well, like most other Mariners fans, but then I came up with this idea: perhaps Jackie Z is making a minor investment in the offense, not to insure wins enough to compete, but to insure wins enough to guarantee a guy like Cliff Lee victories. If Lee has even a few runs more a game than he’s used to, him taking a loss looks far fetched. So perhaps Jack wanted to guarantee Lee’s highest possible stock by protecting Lee’s odds of getting an extra win or two. If so, it’d be the first time I’ve ever seen a GM make a move in order to protect the value of one player in particular, in order that he could maximize the value gained in return off a trade of that player.

    Now, this is all speculation, of course. Who knows if a thought like this ever came across Jack’s mind. But, it’s a shrewd reason, and one I wouldn’t put past our GM.

  60. Chris_From_Bothell on June 29th, 2010 7:59 pm

    Here’s a notion: instead of calling for Ichiro to lower his salary (?!?!?), how about calling for the front office to raise the overall budget, so that Jack has the flexibility to get multiple high quality players?

  61. gwangung on June 29th, 2010 9:07 pm

    Here’s a notion: instead of calling for Ichiro to lower his salary (?!?!?), how about calling for the front office to raise the overall budget, so that Jack has the flexibility to get multiple high quality players?

    That’d be opposing the side that has more of the money.

    That’s unAmerican these days.

  62. DMZ on June 29th, 2010 11:16 pm

    I’m not an expert, but I am pretty sure the Player’s union is not really a fan of players deffering or giving up large parts of their salary (Didn’t that happen with Alex Rodriguez one time?).

    Sigh. You could look this stuff up, you know. I mean I realize that’s snarky and all, but… come on. When you start a sentence with “I’m not an expert, but…” just… anyway.

    The MLBPA is against contract concessions that reduce the present dollar value of the contract. So if a player and team want to defer money, that money needs to be deferred with appropriate interest, or put in T-bills, or whatever.

    And then In Alex’s case, you may remember one of the things he was able to trade off against the dollar contract was the ability to do endorsements in the team’s uniform (rather than the generic fake ones they have to use all the time).

    So… yeah.

  63. JMHawkins on June 29th, 2010 11:54 pm

    So Ichiro should work for free, then, just to make you happy?

    Well, it doesn’t have to be for free. I’m sure he could make some money off Google AdWords, and maybe the M’s could put a PayPal Donate button on their website for him.

  64. Snuffy on June 30th, 2010 3:24 am

    This example does not apply to the Mariner situation but it is interesting re: the protection issue…

    In 1961 Roger Maris hit 61 hr’s (was MVP) and was intentionally walked ’0′ times. Of course the guy hitting behind him was a bit above Branyan.

  65. Gomez on June 30th, 2010 7:39 am

    Seriously? The “ICHIRO HURTS THIS TEAM” meme? I thought everybody killed this dead a couple years ago.

    As much as I don’t want to reset this Bill James line for the umpteenth time… bad teams (and bad fans) focus their frustrations on the team’s best players.

    Ichiro’s $13 million on the books is not what’s stopping this team from competing. The Mariners have money to spend. They just need to spend it wisely and acquire talent wisely. Ichiro is not the reason this team is so far under .500.

  66. Nellie Fox on June 30th, 2010 11:51 am

    Speaking from a coach’s point of view on the subject of protection, batting in front of a respected hitter does guarantee a higher probability of fastballs – nothing more, nothing less. So the protection comes in the form of that. Whatever it’s worth, literally, is what it’s worth. It may be overrated, it may be a probability variable that translates into an arguable effect, but to whatever degree that fastball-vs-offspeed is a factor, it is as real as it gets.

    I’m guessing that there may be 10% of MLB starters who may be “above” the theoretical advantage, and most likely a high percentage of confident closers as well.

    To whatever degree a hitter can be “protected”, however, the protection is real.

  67. Dave on June 30th, 2010 11:55 am

    Speaking from a coach’s point of view on the subject of protection, batting in front of a respected hitter does guarantee a higher probability of fastballs

    Have you tracked this, pitch by pitch, and looked at the data? Because at the major league level, it’s not true. It may be true in lower levels, where pitchers aren’t smart enough to not do this, but it’s not in the big leagues.

  68. Naliamegod on June 30th, 2010 2:17 pm

    Sigh. You could look this stuff up, you know. I mean I realize that’s snarky and all, but… come on. When you start a sentence with “I’m not an expert, but…” just… anyway.

    Sorry DMZ – I was just trying to not add to the constant stream of misinformation that has been spread the last few days.

  69. mln on June 30th, 2010 9:44 pm

    If Ichiro really wants to show how committed he is to the Mariners, he should not only give up his salary and play for free, he should agree to dress up as the Mariner Moose and ride around on that ATV during 7th inning streches.

    Oh yeah, he should also pass out lollipops to children before the game.

    If Ichiro refuses to do all these things, that proves that he is selfish–without a doubt!

  70. joser on July 7th, 2010 9:14 am

    Maybe I missed the link (I started skimming when I hit some of the comments above) but a chapter from THE BOOK that looks at this from the pitching perspective is posted at The Hardball Times. The conclusion is that protecting a batter just ensures he will get fewer walks, not that that he will get better pitches to hit:

    The entire point of protecting a batter is to improve his offensive output (wOBA) by forcing the opposing pitcher to pitch to him. And indeed, we saw above that opposing pitchers pitch to protected hitters, something that is evidenced by the fewer walks. However, when the ball is put into play, we see no significant difference between how the two sets of hitters perform. The unprotected hitters have a wOBA of .395 (counting only balls that are hit), compared with .391 for protected hitters. The difference of .004 is not statistically significant. For comparison, the good hitters in the “leading” situation have a “contact” wOBA of .404, which is a somewhat statistically significant deviation from the other values.

    In short, protecting a star hitter appears to accomplish very little. He indeed gets fewer walks; however, there is no evidence that he gets more hittable pitches, since the pitcher always avoids pitching to a good hitter when the situation would call for an intentional walk.

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