Joe Posnanski Writes A Bad Article

Dave · August 11, 2010 at 7:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The headline is news, because Posnanski is the best sportswriter alive. He writes well on nearly every subject he tackles, and is often the most thoughtful pundit on each topic he is assigned. He understands the game and how to spin a good story. There are few people in the world I would rather read than Posnanski. So, when I saw that he wrote about the Mariners, I looked forward to going through it.

I was surprised more than I was disappointed. The guy who almost always gets it right missed, and missed big time.

Let’s start with the opening paragraph.

It all seems so obvious now, doesn’t it? Bringing back Ken Griffey? Trading for Milton Bradley? Giving 32-year-old Chone Figgins (and his lifetime 99 OPS+) a big-money four-year deal based mostly on one good season (and them moving him to second base)? Signing 32-year-old Jack Wilson to a multi-year contract though he had not played a full-season in two years? Going into the season with Rob Johnson, and his 58 career OPS+, slotted as the regular catcher? Trading for light-hitting Casey Kotchman and inserting him as the Opening Day No. 3 hitter? Building up all sorts of hopes about Ian Snell as a No. 3 starter? Making the moves of a “contender” when the team finished dead last in the American League in runs scored in 2009 and were outscored by 52 runs? Trading a 25-year-old one-time phenom Brandon Morrow and his 98-mph fastball for an older hard-throwing reliever with the same first name (Brandon League)? Expecting another low ERA closer year from David Aardsma? Letting go of Russell Branyan who was one of only two good offensive players on the team in 2009 (he led the team in OPS+)?

In order:

Bringing back Griffey? Bad move, yes. We (and a lot of other people) said so at the time.

Trading for Milton Bradley? Given what the cost was, this was a perfectly reasonable gamble. Carlos Silva wasn’t going to make this team, and so the front office paid $3 million to add Bradley, a switch-hitter with a strong offensive track record.

Chone Figgins had one good year? His WAR by season in LAA after becoming a regular: +3.2, +2.4, +0.0, +3.2, +2.7, +6.1. He had one bad year out of six, not one good year. He’s just factually wrong about Figgins.

Signing Jack Wilson? Not my favorite move, and I expressed concern about the injuries, but calling it a “multi-year deal” is not really being honest about the contract. Instead of picking up his one year, $8 million option, they signed him for $10 million over two years. He’d been worth $5 million or more every year but one since 2004.

Rob Johnson as the regular catcher? That wasn’t the plan. Adam Moore struggled and got hurt. It happens.

Casey Kotchman as #3 hitter? Again, not a factually correct argument. Kotchman hit 3rd against RHP for the first seven days, then moved down to 7th. He’s hit in the #3 spot only 20 times all season, most of which have come since the team gave up on the season.

Ian Snell as #3 starter? Another gamble, and maybe you can argue that the team should have known it wouldn’t have worked, but you can’t really blame the starting rotation for how the season has gone.

Moves of a contender for a team that was outscored last year? We’ve covered this. Pythag record is useless, and using it is lazy analysis. The Mariners won a game or two more than they should have last year. They had every reason to believe that they had a chance to be decent this year.

Trading Morrow for League? Bad deal, and we said so at the time. There’s no defending this one.

Expecting another good year from Aardsma? You can’t criticize them for bringing in League to shore up the bullpen on one hand, then act like they were counting on Aardsma to repeat his 2009 season on the other.

“Letting go” of Russell Branyan? The Mariners tried to re-sign him. They offered him more money than he ended up taking from Cleveland later in the winter. The problem is that he wanted a multi-year deal, and the Mariners didn’t think it was wise to give a guy with his history of injuries that kind of contract. You know, the exact same thing that Posnanski criticized them for doing with Jack Wilson a few sentences earlier. His right hand is criticizing them for doing something that his left hand criticized them for not doing. He then continues on with this:

Yes, it seems so obvious now that the Seattle Mariners were likely to have a terrible crash this season. And it probably should have seemed obvious in February too. And it probably WAS obvious then — Monday’s firing of manager Don Wakamatsu was etched in stone back before spring training.

No, it was not obvious in February. There’s a reason you didn’t see this coming, Joe – it was impossible to see coming. The things that have sunk the team – getting career worst years from Bradley, Kotchman, Figgins, Jose Lopez, Snell, and Rowland-Smith – were not things that you could predict. There was no reason to believe that those six guys would all play at replacement level or below. None.

A few commenters on Posnanski’s blog pointed this out to him, and he responded in another post, suggesting that if we look back a couple of years, maybe it was possible to see this coming, as Figgins and Gutierrez both had mediocre offensive seasons a couple of years ago, so if we just looked at more than one year of data, we could have seen some signs of the crash.

The problem? He’s wrong again. This is exactly what the various projection systems have been created to do. They take 3 years (or more, in some cases) of data to give a decent sample size, regress the performances to account for luck, and add in aging curves that take into account the way players skills develop and erode over time. Projections from systems like ZiPS and CHONE have proven to be pretty accurate overall. Here’s how those six main failures were projected to do this year:

Chone Figgins: .334 wOBA (ZiPS), .339 wOBA (CHONE), .307 wOBA (actual)
Milton Bradley: .355 wOBA (ZiPS), .353 wOBA (CHONE), .289 wOBA (actual)
Jose Lopez: .322 wOBA (ZiPS), .331 wOBA (CHONE), .266 wOBA (actual)
Casey Kotchman: .333 wOBA (ZiPS), .325 wOBA (CHONE), .275 wOBA (actual)

Ryan Rowland-Smith: 4.52 FIP (ZiPS), 4.41 (CHONE), 6.79 (actual)
Ian Snell: 4.45 (ZiPS), 4.49 (CHONE), 6.48 (actual)

In every single case, the player is performing so far below any reasonable expectation that you cannot make a case that this was something that anyone should have seen coming. Posnanski isn’t even consistent with his points. He asserts that we should been questioning the Figgins signing because his 2008 wasn’t as good as his 2009, but never mentions the fact that Bradley was the best hitter in the American League two years ago. We should have been worried about the age of Figgins and Bradley, but ignore the fact that Lopez and Kotchman were both at an age where players traditionally have the best years of their career?

Joe’s assertion is that looking at multiple years of data would have allowed us to see that the Mariners had a terrible offense and would crash and burn. The problem, though, is that this isn’t reality. ZiPS projected the Mariners for 86 wins, and it’s based on data, not off-season hype. CHONE was a bit more conservative, coming in at 78 wins, but not projecting any AL West team for more than 86 wins. Overall, the best projection systems thought the M’s were about a .500 team, maybe a little bit better.

Guess what? So did we. In my brief pre-season preview, I noted that this was a high variance team that was basically unpredictable. I projected the team for 83 wins and a second place finish behind the Texas Rangers. The guys over at Lookout Landing did two polls on Opening Day, with the majority of the readers suggesting that the team would win 82-86 games and miss the playoffs.

The idea that there was this runaway, uncontrollable optimism about the Mariners season that was unfounded based on facts is just revisionist history. By any reasonable standard, this team should have been viewed as a .500ish club – one with some problems, but also one with strengths. If things went their way, they could have been a contender. Instead, absolutely nothing has gone their way, and the result has been a disaster.

But no one saw this coming, and no one should have seen this coming, because this was essentially the perfect storm of problems in one season. There’s a reason Murphy has a law – sometimes, everything that could go wrong does. This is one of those times. It is not, however, a chance to look back and say “well, we should have known better.” No, you shouldn’t have. The team was evaluated fairly based on the best information available. It didn’t work out. That’s life.

Sorry Joe, but you’re better than this.

Comments

51 Responses to “Joe Posnanski Writes A Bad Article”

  1. maqman on August 11th, 2010 7:53 am

    You are right on with this one Dave, I agree 100 percent across the board. I too love Posnanski (and started reading him on your recommendation some time ago) but he fluffed on this one. This is not news, we all fluff and all did before the Ms season started. I still like what GMZ has done to stock the cupboard for next season, even though we have all come to dislike what was served up this season.

  2. charliebrown on August 11th, 2010 8:29 am

    Dave, I have a question. It seems like in Posnanski’s second post that he’s using OPS+ and you are using wOBA to project offensive production.

    Is one better than the other, or would that make any significant difference in projections when it comes to offense?

  3. Dave on August 11th, 2010 8:31 am

    wOBA is better than OPS+. Joe uses it because he’s more comfortable with it and he’s writing for a more mainstream audience, but its less accurate.

    It doesn’t matter, though. The point is the same either way.

  4. charliebrown on August 11th, 2010 8:41 am

    OK. Thanks Dave.

  5. diderot on August 11th, 2010 8:47 am

    I feel like a vacation replacement wrote this under his byline.

    What bothers me most is that it will add fuel to the yahoos who believe that somehow this adds up to incompetence on the part of Z. I think his job is 100% safe, that he did what he could with the hand he was dealt, and as you so clearly point out, it was the players who failed–not him. Most of all, I’m amazed at all the people who say he was blind to the need for more pop in the middle of the lineup…when he said repeatedly that he would like another bat or two for the middle of the lineup.

    And this isn’t going to get any better moving forward. People are going to slam ownership for not going out and ‘buying’ the offense they need…without looking at the available free agents, and realizing that beyond Crawford and maybe Dunn (who would never come here anyway), there aren’t any sure things to be purchased.

    This is a long term project…and behind the scenes of this year’s major league disaster…Z is making great strides in building a first class organization.

  6. The Ancient Mariner on August 11th, 2010 8:47 am

    Yeah, in a nutshell:

    * All the gambles failed

    * A number of key players who weren’t gambles failed

    * The bad moves turned out worst-case scenarios

    * There was no unexpected good fortune to counterbalance the bad

    I don’t think the FO has handled this as well as they might have done (though comparing the return for Cliff Lee to the Haren and Oswalt deals shows they haven’t lost their touch), but expecting them to never screw up is completely unreasonable — and blaming them for being unlucky is an order of magnitude worse.

    I just hope the owners can see that . . .

  7. robbbbbb on August 11th, 2010 9:06 am

    Dave mentioned in his pre-season preview that the M’s had opted for a high-variance strategy this year. That is, they took a whole bunch of risks on players who might do well and might blow up.

    I posit that this was the correct strategy for the M’s this year; it just didn’t work.

    There’s a pretty good core on this team right now: Felix, Ichiro, and Gutierrez. Plus, the M’s have some good complementary pieces too, in Figgins, Vargas, etc. When we traded for Lee, all of a sudden the team was looking pretty good.

    Here’s the thing: The team wasn’t quite a contender at that point. So the correct strategy was to take some outrageous risks (Bradley, Bedard, Kotchman) and hope that they panned out. These weren’t long-term risks, but they were all risky players.

    The risks all failed. The team fell out of contention. However, this allowed them to flip Lee for prospects and strengthen the team’s long-term future.

    They rolled the dice this year and it didn’t work. It didn’t cripple the team for the future and we got a lost baseball season. It happens. It was still the right move.

  8. Dennisss on August 11th, 2010 9:13 am

    To put it another way, it would have been utterly stupid to predict, at the beginning of this season, that the Mariners would be this bad. The fact that it turned out this way doesn’t change that.

    I’ve seen a lot of crowing this year about how the “stat heads” didn’t come to the concensus prediction that the Mariners would be awful, but it would not have made any sense if they had.

  9. Evan on August 11th, 2010 9:18 am

    To put it another way, it would have been utterly stupid to predict, at the beginning of this season, that the Mariners would be this bad. The fact that it turned out this way doesn’t change that.

    So many people can’t seem to understand this. They think that any prediction, if it turned out to be correct, was a good prediction, and that’s nonsense.

  10. jimforjim on August 11th, 2010 9:35 am

    I’m also a big Posnanski fan, but what Dave writes is spot on. In reading the first article, I think what Joe is really doing is setting up a straw-man argument, as his lengthy aside about the 12 Angry Men illustrates how our perceptions can often lead us awry. He’s actually right, but using the M’s as a foil was … misguided.

  11. CCW on August 11th, 2010 9:46 am

    Exactly. It’s a straw man. Very few people were predicting that the M’s would be great, but that’s exactly what Ponanski seems to be implying. Instead, folks projected a .500 team that, *if* things broke well, could win 90 games and compete for the division crown. And of course, if things didn’t break well, the team had the potential to be bad. A lot of us were excited because, for the first time in years, the M’s had a 25% of making the playoffs to begin the season. We were excited… but it was still long-shot, and pretty much everyone knew it.

  12. Mike Snow on August 11th, 2010 9:52 am

    There was no unexpected good fortune to counterbalance the bad

    Fister and Vargas have been better than expected. Now, within the rotation alone, Rowland-Smith and Snell negate the impact, so this doesn’t even begin to balance all of the other problems, but there hasn’t been a complete absence of positive developments.

  13. Rayvensdad on August 11th, 2010 10:17 am

    So many people planned this team to compete for a division title this year, myself included, but there is a MAJOR difference between how Jack Z. has gone about his business compared to Bavasi. Bavasi tried the quick fix and sacrificed our future to do so. With the exception of the Morrow trade which I thought was absolutely horrible (especially since no one was consistent with Brandon M.), I feel that Jack Z. did an amazing job creating a competitive team this year AND rebuilding the farm club to have success later down the line. Jack started the season saying we are still #3 in the division until we prove different. So he took gambles that made sense… TO EVERYONE… which is why the M’s were picked by many to win the division this year in the beginning. Watching the team as of late makes me wonder if the players just had no interest to compete for Wak and never had their heads on straight, which can explain such dismal personal stats for the season … though it is only 2 games since Wak’s firing and that theory can’t come close to holding any water. Though if somehow this team pulls off a 10+ game winning streak, then it would raise some interesting questions.

    Fact is that this organization is fixing itself and at the same time trying to be competitive. They looked to be as such this year, but for whatever reason, the train fell off the tracks. BUT… our farm system wasn’t sacrificed and that is why this will turn out better in the long run for this club. But they need to get a manager, and keep a manager, even in some tough times. Which is why I think there were some serious internal issues with Wak. There isn’t a quick fix to this, and Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln need to stop pretending like there is. They need structure and time. Unless they want to start shelling out 175 million dollars a year in payroll.

  14. jsa on August 11th, 2010 10:29 am

    Sorry Joe, but you’re better than this.

    Questions:

    1) Does anyone fact check Joe on a regular basis, or is it possible Joe is NOT better than this?

    2) How many other blogs take Joe to task when he rips their predictions or their team or gores their OX?

    3) Is this “Joe Rebuttal” overwrought because the criticism for failing to foresee (or at least allow for) the current team disaster falls on USSM just as much as it falls on the Mariners Front Office?

    Just sayin…..

  15. The_Waco_Kid on August 11th, 2010 10:38 am

    Right on, Dave. I’m tired of hearing so many people act in hindsight like this was obvious. Sure, we should have looked at the luck of last season and tempered our expectations a bit, but not that much. You do a great job articulating what happened this season. Jack Z made mostly reasonable gambles, but somehow none paid off.

  16. Phillies Red on August 11th, 2010 10:44 am

    I’m not a usual contributor, so I hope folks don’t mind if I offer my two cents.

    I think Dave’s close read of Joe’s article is certainly accurate, but I’m not sure that Joe meant for those introductory, rhetorical remarks to be read as literal arguments. Instead, this list of “follies” is more about setting up the article, providing background, and getting some drama into the piece. Taken literally, it’s lazy argumentation; read as a set up and introduction, its decent, though perhaps unfair, writing.

    But the rub here is that I don’t think we should let this part of the article distract from what is a rather compelling piece. As a non-Mariner fan, and an avid reader of Dave’s, fangraphs, and other saber-oriented sites, I was totally psyched to see the Mariners play. They seemed like they were putting together an exciting, smartly built team, and taking the proper type of gambles to get them over the hump. I certainly believed that they would carry over some momentum from last year, and at worst be middle of the pack this year.

    And so I agree that Joe is unfair when he says: “The Mariners did not have a smart off-season, not at all.” But I think Joe has a great insight about the force of momentum, narrative really, impacts how fans, even objectively-oriented ones, think about teams. Posnanski overreaches with his conclusion, but he’s right that we should continue to inject skepticism into even the most heart-warming baseball narratives. There were some red flags in the Mariners 2010 team, and I for one missed them because I was expecting an exciting, winning team (and even hoping Griffey might have one more great year in him).

    Anyway, great site, and good conversation. Hope you folks don’t mind I stopped by.

  17. dw on August 11th, 2010 10:53 am

    Is this “Joe Rebuttal” overwrought because the criticism for failing to foresee (or at least allow for) the current team disaster falls on USSM just as much as it falls on the Mariners Front Office?

    Um. You did see The ESPN The Magazine cover, right?

    Oh, wait, you’re referring to these statements:

    With the Angels losing some important pieces and the Mariners wheeling and dealing to add Cliff Lee and taking a chance on Milton Bradley, the Mariners are really looking like the favorite in the AL West….

    Even if the Mariners don’t make the playoffs, Jack Zduriencik and Company turning an organization run on the basis of the thoughts of Buzzie’s Other Idiot Son into a legitimate contender in a year is a mighty impressive achievement.

    Yeah, guilty as charged… Baseball Think Factory!

    What Dave said way back when is the projections look good, but there was a lot of variance there. How this got conflated to “MARINERS WILL WIN 100 AND THE WORLD SERIES HAHAHAHAHA” I don’t really know, but dropping the onus on USSM for whatever out of control hype machine inflated the M’s to a division champion is stupid.

  18. jsa on August 11th, 2010 10:59 am

    @Evan:

    They think that any prediction, if it turned out to be correct, was a good prediction, and that’s nonsense.

    I think one could take the other side of that argument:

    Any prediction that failed to include the possibility of an outcome similar to current state of affairs was made with blinders on. After all, the art of prediction is to use all the resources at hand, and with few exceptions our present methods overweight past performance.

    You see this time and time again here. He WAS, He DID, He HOLDS, – - – Always reference to past performance, with very little reference to the prospects of the future.

    You can counter by saying there is no way so many players could be predicted to have a bad season ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

    Yet the Mariners seem prove this theory wrong frequently enough.

    We just has an article where Griffey was alleged to have poisoned the clubhouse. It included posts about how petulant he could be, how he left the Reds just prior to being shown the door. How all of this was known AHEAD of time.

    Some mention was made early of the possibility of Bradley having another meltdown, but the effect of that never carried into predictions of team performance.

    Human factors are hard to weigh. But SOME allowance must be made for the disruption factor especially when there is a clear history of it.

    How many losses were cranked into the equation based strictly on the inevitable Bradly meltdown, and the effect of that on other team members? Was the event THAT unpredictable? Or was it simply hand waived away because hard numbers were not available? (not to single out Bradley here, the same could be said of Snell, Griffey, and a few other risky characters we have had over the years).

    Any prediction system that ignores these situations misses its design criteria.

    Any prediction that is proven right is, by definition, better than one that is proven horribly wrong.

    Doing everything “By the book” and getting killed in the end over and over again calls for some modification of the book.

  19. Squooshed on August 11th, 2010 11:02 am

    Perhaps I’m being optimistic, but I don’t think either Dave or Joe are as far apart as they appear to be at first blush.

    Even if the USSM, and several others, realistically appraised the M’s chances of success, there certainly was a wave of enthusiasm about the Mariners in the offseason in the mainstream media and many people and M’s fans did think the Mariners were the favorites to win the division (including Joe himself in February). However, some of those people may have been carried away and failed to fully appreciate the potential downside of the roster as constructed.

    At the same time, it is clear that this season has become a worst case scenario run amok. The issues that appeared dubious (Griffey/Sweeney at DH, Johnson/Moore at catcher) turned out to be disasters. The educated risks (Bradley, Kotchman, Snell) blew up. The reasonably predictable complementary pieces (Figgins, Lopez, RRS) totally flopped.

    So, while Joe is right that some people perhaps should have been more dubious about the M’s chances this season, Dave is also right that a collapse of this proportion was not a realistic prediction either.

  20. Dave on August 11th, 2010 11:03 am

    Any prediction that is proven right is, by definition, better than one that is proven horribly wrong.

    As long as you believe this, you’re going to have a hard time learning how baseball actually works. You’re going to continually use post-hoc explanations for things in order to justify wrong ideas, which is exactly what the rest of your post does.

  21. jsa on August 11th, 2010 11:06 am

    @DW:

    I wasn’t referring to any of those statements, but thanks for putting words in my mouth!

    And way to ignore my main point.

  22. Gregory on August 11th, 2010 11:09 am

    According to the logic in Posnanski’s article, players development must plateau in the early 20s and then start declining around 32. While the latter may be true, it upsets me that he mentions Gutierrez having mediocre offensive years before last year as a reason he would have another this year.

  23. dw on August 11th, 2010 11:11 am

    PECOTA had Figgins pegged at a 9% chance for collapse. ZiPS had a 15% of him having a “poor” season.

    The thing that’s shocking about this Mariners isn’t that they’re not contending when everyone thought they would. It’s that they’re underperforming as a team at possibly historic levels.

    The river is low because it hasn’t rained, not because the dam upstream has its gates shut. There’s also an economics metaphor in there, but then I’m treading into politics and that won’t end well.

  24. dw on August 11th, 2010 11:16 am

    I wasn’t referring to any of those statements, but thanks for putting words in my mouth!

    Yes, you were referring to those statements, because you’re trying to hang USSM for making statements like that, when none of the writers here made no statements like that. There was optimism, but it was cautious and very qualified. Others took ZiPS and CHONE and immediately went all WORLD SERIES.

    And way to ignore my main point.

    I’m not ignoring your main point. I addressed it by pointing out you’re out to shoot the wrong guy.

  25. gcnmoo on August 11th, 2010 11:18 am

    I don’t think this article is as far off as you say Dave. Many of the points are somewhat valid, the overall optimism for the Mariners this year was absolutely absurd. I wrote an article on this before the season that I couldn’t believe all the hype the mariners were getting. The Mariners had one strong point coming into the season (defense). Their offense was gonna be one of the worst even if most of their players had played to their projected statistics. One of the major mistakes prognosticators made was implying the Mariners had a top notch bullpen. This could not be furthur from the case. Their bullpen overachieved big time last year and coming into the season I think their xFIP projections were right next to the royals as the worst in the league. League was the only pitcher in the bullpen that really had consistently thrown up low xFIPs for a few years. They had one healthy dominant starter in Felix. Yes, if Lee was healthy they’d have a dominant 1-2 starter duo, but the back end was the worst in baseball. Rowland-Smith, Snell, and Fister/Vargas as 3-5 is absolutely horrendous. I focused on this issue when I was talking about the overhyping of the Mariners. Rowland-Smith had awful numbers in the minors and was pitching WAY over his head last year. Vargas/Fister have never had great numbers either in the minors. Snell had been awful for a few years running and while I don’t mind taking a stab at him I wouldn’t have counted much out of him. The one thing they could count on (defense) is apt to the most variance from year to year and I knew they were in trouble even if their team suited their ballpark.

    As far as the moves, he’s talking about in the article, I think he overreacted to some moves based on this year’s results. Bradley for Silva was a fine trade even if Bradley will likely never play more than 130-135 games. Signing Figgins I was neutral about as it seemed like a fair deal and I guess you need speed in that ballpark along with strong fielding. They signed Kotchman to be the #3 hitter and quickly realized that was a mistake 2 weeks into the season, that was a problem. Jack Wilson and the Catcher situation was going to be a problem all year. In the back of my mind, I have a feeling they were never playing for this year as some of these guys just appeared to be stopgaps for a year or 2 (kotchman, bradley, wilson). Yes, it was the perfect storm and the Mariners never should have expected to be this bad. However, personally I think the expectations were way to high coming into the season with the roster the way it was.

  26. jsa on August 11th, 2010 11:18 am

    Did PECOTA include any allowance for Figgins moving to a new team, a new field position, with new coaches, where all the attention was heaped on a clearly washed up formerly great player who was sewing the seeds of discontent in the clubhouse?

    Or was it based on his past years in a largely steady state environment.

  27. Westside guy on August 11th, 2010 11:27 am

    I really like Posnanski, when I can take the 30 minutes required to read through one of his blog posts. :-)

    But yeah, this one bugged me when I first saw it. However (warning: about to damn with faint praise) at least he points out that a lot of Mariners severely underperformed this year. There are a whole bunch of writers that, upon seeing the Mariners implode, drew the conclusion “the high OBP approach doesn’t work” and “it’s apparent the team should’ve gone after a big bat”. It’s like they’re analyzing the Mariners based on their press clippings from last winter. Apparently they aren’t even looking at what the team is actually doing, or failing to do. As in, this team has been 29th or 30th in team OBP all year. As in, as maddening as Jose Lopez was last year, there’s no way anyone could predict he’d do so much more poorly this year. They’re completely ignoring everything Dave pointed out in this post, basically, about Figgins / Bradley / Kotchman / etc.

    Heck, even Griffey underperformed his expected level – how bad is that?

  28. ThundaPC on August 11th, 2010 11:30 am

    This is what I hate the most about this season.

    The Mariners are 44-70, no where near contention, no where near where anyone (those who use rational analysis) thought they’d be. It’s been an all-around disappointment.

    But it’s not the team that annoys me. The plug was pulled on the season with the Cliff Lee trade. It’s outside people taking the opportunity to tee off on the Mariners and/or the Mariners organization that gets me.

    Even people who claim to have seen this coming before the season started relied on two arguments:

    - Last Year’s Pythagorean Record
    - There is no offense, all the run prevention in the world won’t change the fact that you can’t score runs!

    The first point has nothing to do with analyzing how the 2010 Mariners would do. The second point is too ambiguous. Mariners have the fewest RS in the division (369) and they’re in last place. The Padres have the fewest RS in the division (484) and they’re in first place. The main difference between the two is run prevention (-121 vs. +101).

    This doesn’t include people who have taken the same route Posnanski has taken to analyzing this team. Basically, people pointing to all the under-performers and implying that they were bad roster decisions. I didn’t think it was possible to spin the Bradley/Silva trade in a negative light but a number of folks have done it. The people who claim that letting Branyan go was a bad decision usually don’t bother to understand the circumstances surrounding that issue.

    It’s pretty sad really. The idea behind the construction of the roster was pretty sound for the most part. But because the team collapsed and didn’t live up to the overblown media hype people decide to dissect and criticize each move that went into it. And though hindsight no less.

    I’m ready for this season to be over.

  29. jsa on August 11th, 2010 11:30 am

    @DW:

    Yes, you were referring to those statements, because you’re trying to hang USSM for making statements like that,

    How could I POSSIBLY be referring to those statements, since I’ve NEVER read them? Ever!

    I’m not trying to HANG USSM for making statements like that.

    I simply asked if Dave’s rebuttal was at least partially fueled by Dave’s realization that Posnanski’s shoe fit USSM’s feet.

    Again, I ask, does anybody routinely fact check Posnanski? Is he frequently this “wrong”? If he was talking about the Brewers, would Dave have noticed?

    Stop trying to make this about me VS USSM. You’ve totally missed the point.

  30. Naliamegod on August 11th, 2010 11:39 am

    Did PECOTA include any allowance for Figgins moving to a new team, a new field position, with new coaches, where all the attention was heaped on a clearly washed up formerly great player who was sewing the seeds of discontent in the clubhouse?

    No because it is pointless – you can’t count in something that you really can’t predict. Furthermore, there are countless players who go through the same situation and do perfectly fine. I don’t think Cliff Lee had any problems performance wise despite having much of the same problems as Figgins.

  31. gwangung on August 11th, 2010 11:44 am

    Any prediction that is proven right is, by definition, better than one that is proven horribly wrong.

    No. Absolutely not. You try that in any grad school doing research and you’d get tossed out on your ear.

    And if we’re restricting this to baseball, you better take a look at the qualifiers for those predictions. A prediction of “xx wins if these regulars have typical years” is STILL better than “this team sucks, they’re gonna lose lose LOSE.”

  32. jsa on August 11th, 2010 11:48 am

    No because it is pointless – you can’t count in something that

    So, you’re saying in effect, this has never been measured and since you found one case where it didn’t happen, there is no point in running the numbers?

    What happened to all the saber-metric objectivity all of a sudden?

  33. Axtell on August 11th, 2010 11:54 am

    It’s funny to see the so-called experts rushing to say ‘we knew the mariners were going to be bad’ then spinning numbers to suit their argument.

  34. Naliamegod on August 11th, 2010 12:00 pm

    So, you’re saying in effect, this has never been measured and since you found one case where it didn’t happen, there is no point in running the numbers?

    No there is no point because you can’t “measure” it. There are no numbers that will tell you how well a guy performs based on how well he “knows” the area.

  35. Liam on August 11th, 2010 12:17 pm

    Did anyone happen to notice the symmetry on
    Ryan Rowland-Smith’s Fangraphs page?

    2009
    Start-IP: 96.1
    WAR: 1.5

    2010
    Start-IP: 96.1
    WAR: -1.5

  36. jsa on August 11th, 2010 12:39 pm

    No there is no point because you can’t “measure” it.

    Sure you can…

    Run the numbers for every player that moves to a new team and compare their first year a the new team to their last two or three years at their prior team.

    Players like Figgins, with an extensive history at one team may show significant change when moving to another team.

    Off the top of your head you might expect free agents to be different than traded players.

    But until you run the numbers you don’t know.

    It is “measurable” as a derivative of existing data.

  37. Dave on August 11th, 2010 12:41 pm

    Do the work, let us know the results.

    Until then, you’re guessing.

  38. diderot on August 11th, 2010 12:41 pm

    I would like to pay tribute to three excellent points made in comments above:

    Dave mentioned in his pre-season preview that the M’s had opted for a high-variance strategy this year. That is, they took a whole bunch of risks on players who might do well and might blow up. I posit that this was the correct strategy for the M’s this year; it just didn’t work.

    Jack started the season saying we are still #3 in the division until we prove different. So he took gambles that made sense… TO EVERYONE…

    Mariners have the fewest RS in the division (369) and they’re in last place. The Padres have the fewest RS in the division (484) and they’re in first place. The main difference between the two is run prevention (-121 vs. +101).

  39. Klatz on August 11th, 2010 1:00 pm

    In many ways the article is a response to the significant hype going into the season. As unfair as it is there were a couple strong themes, market undervaluation of defense and Z’s trading acumen, that made many commentators to predict the Ms as contenders.

    The historic collapse of so many players was not predictable but it feeds unfortunately into a ha ha you’re wrong sentimentality.

    In retrospect, many of the moves were not that great.

    The Morrow trade stands out as particularly bad. And the lack of offense additions in the offseason. Betting that Kotchman will at least be an average 1b, that Adam Moore would not struggle as a relative rookie, hoping that Bradley replicates his 2008 and not 2009 season, all looks like a bad bet overall. Individually, each single bet doesn’t look too bad but basing a team on a slew of bets in retrospect appears to more wishful thinking than good roster contruction.

    A lot of this is post-hoc hand wringing. But perhaps we were all little too optimistic.

  40. MrZDevotee on August 11th, 2010 1:10 pm

    I wouldn’t venture to call myself a die-hard Dave defender, but I specifically remember him being the Mariner enthusiast with the most reservations at the start of the season.

    Lots of phrases about “a lot of things have to go right”. I think just the idea that we had a high ceiling was exciting, since we hadn’t felt that way in a longtime. And, it was mostly the rest of us who took the ball and ran with it (all the way to Cliff Lee winning game 7 of the World Series, in a 1-0 nail-biter– before signing a 5 year extension).

    Was it reasonable? Probably not. But damn, it sure was fun to at least be able to imagine it. Though looking back, I don’t think you can hang Dave with the same thick enthusiasm rope that we the commentors had.

    It was kinda the same enthusiasm one gets when having the chance to take a half court shot for a million dollars. Looking back, it wasn’t very likely, but in the moment you’re thinking “holy shit, I could win $1 millon!”

    My big fear, if media starts taking stabs at us like this, is that Jack Z and company throw out the pitching/defense baby with the “we-took-a-bath” water, and revert to the old ways of overspending for a bunch of slow, league average defense, fence swingers, to appease the fans. Which is tied to my bigger fear that Seattle fans don’t have the patience to develop our own good-defense/good-speed/decent-power prospects over the next 4 to 5 years.

    (fingers crossed)

  41. dantheman on August 11th, 2010 1:33 pm

    I don’t think you can justify penciling in Ian Snell as the number 3 starter (a disaster) by stating that you can’t blame the starting rotation for how the season has gone. You can justify the signing of anyone, no matter how badly they perform, if you’re just going to blame the team’s poor performance on the other 24 players.

    The Mariners did “let go” of Branyan. He wanted a multi-year deal and the Mariners wouldn’t give it to him so they let him go. Maybe that was a good decision or maybe a bad one, but they did let Branyan go and that decision has nothing to do with whether it was a good idea to give Wilson (or anyone else) a multi-year contract. It’s hardly inconsistent to say that one player should receive a multi-year contract and another player shouldn’t.

    The Morrow trade looks worse every day. Frankly, torching Morrow’s self-confidence in the first week of the season last year was one of the worst managerial decisions I’ve seen.

    Lastly, as I said before, the one constant to years of inconsistency and now 9 years of futility (100 losses again?!) is the duo of Armstrong and Lincoln. They’ve had so much and produced so little.

  42. opiate82 on August 11th, 2010 2:52 pm

    I think when we (and by “we” I mean the people much more baseball-intelligent than me who run this blog) looked at the numbers and made the pre-season predictions they said we look like we could be around a .500 team. But the fan in all of us said “Hey! But if great things A, B, and C happen, we could compete for the division!”

    Even though this is a stat-driven blog we are still fans and are still prone to biased, blind optimism. Who the hell wants to sit here in the offseason and hope our team preforms to its expected mediocre statistical average.

    If you want to criticize us for having optimism and hope before a season began, fine. I am okay with being a fan first and a stat-head second. It’s not like we didn’t look at numbers and weren’t aware of possible issues. What seemed like realistic predictions were made on this blog before the season.

    But anyone saying that they saw these results coming better have a crystal ball, because there weren’t any previously known facts that could have pointed to this disaster.

  43. diggity doggity on August 11th, 2010 3:30 pm

    Mariners have the fewest RS in the division (369) and they’re in last place. The Padres have the fewest RS in the division (484) and they’re in first place. The main difference between the two is run prevention (-121 vs. +101).

    Well…there is a big difference between being 20th in the majors in runs scored and being dead last. Also, the Padres being last in runs scored by a slight amount in the NL West helps explain why they are only 4 games over .500 against that division despite solid pitching and defense.

    As for not being able to predict that Figgins wouldn’t adjust well, he had about 90% of his ABs for the last 3 years as a leadoff guy and 909% of his games played as a 3B (those are rough stats, not exact). It certainly seems natural to wonder how anyone can project offensive or defensive success for a guy in 2 totally different roles than he had in the past. If he was hitting cleanup or playing catcher he would have a different profile, right? So the same idea applies here.

    As for the comparison to Lee and how he has adjusted, last time I checked he was still a starting pitcher and still threw from the same mound. That’s a bit different than telling him he will be a closer and he will throm from 40 feet away instead of 60 to the plate.

    With all of this done, the only move I cannot rationalize away was taking on Snell and Wilson…they gave up nothing, but with budget crunches in place spending $10MM on those 2 guys was inexcusable to me. Fragile Jack and Headcase Ian were risks not worth taking- I said it then and I say it now.

  44. Liam on August 11th, 2010 3:43 pm

    Frankie Gutierrez’s 89 OPS+ is certainly down from last year … but his career OPS+ BEFORE last year was 88.

    Russell Branyan’s 114 OPS+ is certainly down from last year … but his career OPS+ BEFORE last year was 110.

    Branyan doesn’t resign: How could you let him go?
    Branyan does resign: How could you miss the obvious?

  45. The Ancient Mariner on August 11th, 2010 4:07 pm

    jsa: I simply asked if Dave’s rebuttal was at least partially fueled by Dave’s realization that Posnanski’s shoe fit USSM’s feet.

    And dw simply answered you — twice — by pointing out that it doesn’t.

  46. dantheman on August 11th, 2010 7:01 pm

    “Even people who claim to have seen this coming before the season started relied on two arguments:
    - Last Year’s Pythagorean Record
    - There is no offense, all the run prevention in the world won’t change the fact that you can’t score runs!
    The first point has nothing to do with analyzing how the 2010 Mariners would do.”

    I seem to recall that Bill James, in an Abstract many years ago, expressed the view that a team that outperformed under the Pythagorean formula one year was very likely to regress the next.

  47. Westside guy on August 11th, 2010 9:14 pm

    I seem to recall that Bill James, in an Abstract many years ago, expressed the view that a team that outperformed under the Pythagorean formula one year was very likely to regress the next.

    Many years ago, when Bill James came up with the Pythagorean Expectation, it was cutting edge. That is no longer the case.

    I’m not a heavy-duty baseball stat-head but, as in any other endeavor, what’s state of the art when it first comes out almost always becomes quaint at some point. Even Newtonian Physics…

    Note that I’m not saying either is wrong, per se, :-) but that, over time, the shortcomings and limitations become better known.

  48. littlesongs on August 11th, 2010 9:25 pm

    I usually love Joe Posnanski and this column surprised me too. After a reread, I got what he was saying, but I still think he is off base.

    It will not keep me from enjoying more Joe in the future. The aforementioned Bill James was wrong about Dick Allen, and I forgave him too.

  49. Jeff Nye on August 12th, 2010 10:13 am

    Bill James is a tricky subject.

    Obviously in a lot of ways he is the father of sabermetrics. At the same time, being a pioneer inherently means that you will eventually get left behind, and that’s basically where James is at now.

    I have a ton of respect for him, but he isn’t someone I look to for analysis anymore.

  50. scottg02 on August 12th, 2010 12:48 pm

    I think the article was overall a good one. Your points are indeed valid Dave, but his position is that one view can be taken by someone and spread like wildfire is indeed what I believe happened with the preseason hype with the Mariners. Even with everything that has gone wrong, and certainly the Mariners could not have been predicted to be this bad, they were way overhyped going in.

  51. dantheman on August 13th, 2010 8:15 am

    Strange how much of what Bill “left behind” James wrote still appears to be true. There may be advances and refinements to his theories but he is right far more often than he is wrong.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.