Why We Can’t Overreact To Last Year

Dave · May 13, 2011 at 10:44 am · Filed Under Mariners 

One of the main problems with last year’s team is that they got absolutely nothing from the first base position, so they were unable to generate any offense from a position where most teams had a guy who could pound the baseball. Casey Kotchman was the most notable failure, and his .217/.280/.336 line has been used as an example that Jack Zduriencik’s theory on roster construction is flawed, and the team is focused on acquiring the wrong kind of players.

One year later, Casey Kotchman is hitting .360/.435/.453 for the Tampa Bay Rays. He leads the AL in batting average (among hitters with at least 80 plate appearances), and his success is one of the reasons the Rays are in first place in the AL East.

Baseball is weird and players are inconsistent. Sometimes, good players have bad years, and bad players have good years. It happens. Andrew Friedman isn’t a genius for finding Casey Kotchman this winter, and Jack Zduriencik wasn’t a moron for giving him a job last winter. Both teams took low cost flyers on a guy who has some skills and some flaws, but they’re getting very different results from essentially the same decision.

Last year, the M’s ended up on the wrong side of a lot of bets. They won’t always get the 2010 version of Kotchman instead of the 2011 version. Things like this tend to even out over time, and given enough decent decisions, the M’s will get some unexpected good results out of guys as well. The key is to keep making good bets on players and not overreacting when they don’t pan out.

Judge the process, not the results.


32 Responses to “Why We Can’t Overreact To Last Year”

  1. Violinguy72 on May 13th, 2011 10:57 am

    I completely agree. If Kotchman had played like he is this year, it would just be another reason to hail Z as a genius.

    Kotchman’s D has always been great, it’s his offense that has been horribly inconsistent and we ended up getting one of the bad years. Can’t blame Z for taking a shot.

  2. MX on May 13th, 2011 11:00 am

    Is it Seattle? Is it Safeco? Beltre left Seattle and then had one monster season in Boston and is now hitting 4th in Texas (4th in THAT powerful hitting lineup). Kotchman was horrible for seattle and all of a sudden he is AVG leader for the league. There is also Jack Hannahan on fire for the Indians.

    There must be something wrong with this city or this ballpark.

  3. Alec on May 13th, 2011 11:06 am

    MX: or, as is more likely, we have had bad luck.

  4. poordispatcher on May 13th, 2011 11:07 am

    It was nice to know last year that any ball hit within the same zip code of Kotch would be caught and turned into an out.

  5. paracorto on May 13th, 2011 11:24 am

    “Is it Seattle?”

    Yes Sir, I think so.

  6. mrb on May 13th, 2011 11:36 am

    I think it’s Seattle too – we’re cursed. How else can you explain the Griffey/A-Rod/Edgar/Randy (plus Buhner, Tino, Moyer etc) only winning 2 (of 5) playoff series’?

    has anyone investigates the “team effect” – ie, if you correct for park factors by handedness, what franchises over-perform their PECOTA vs underperform? Like… it makes sense that Beltre was a decent to good hitter with the M’s than had a monster year in Fenway… but the number of guys falling off the shelf in Seattle seems to me to be staggering…

  7. groundzero55 on May 13th, 2011 11:55 am


    Not to bring back any nightmare flashbacks or anything.

  8. PackBob on May 13th, 2011 11:56 am

    Agree. But it will be tough to swallow when you write the same post on May 13, 2012….

    The team can’t hit, but it is also a bounce or two, a ptich or two, from being near .500 and right in the mix. Aside from Smoak’s brief run, no Mariner hitter has caught fire. If just a few of their hitters could get their bats going, the M’s mght win more of these close games instead of losing.

    But get Olivo far away from the 4-spot.

  9. The_Waco_Kid on May 13th, 2011 12:06 pm

    Kotchman had eye surgery, so supposedly that was his problem.

    You have to judge results eventually, but Dave’s post is spot on. The other thing to consider is that Jack Z made weak moves due to limited resources. Kotchman wasn’t the best idea for our first baseman, but he was the best we could afford. The time to judge Z is next year, when he has a full budget to work with. Could any GM have done better with the restraints Z faced?

  10. Klatz on May 13th, 2011 12:15 pm

    I’m not sure you can based it on park effects. If you take a look at the ratio of runs home/away at http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor/_/order/false.

    Tropicana field 2008-2010 was 0.955, 0.996, 0.8. And in 2011 it leads the pack at 0.659

    Safeco field 2008-2010 0.932, 0.947, 0.813. And in 2011 it’s 0.994.

    One pet peeve, it would be better to say don’t judge things based on small sample sizes. Even if a process uses ostensibly valid statistical approaches to reach some conclusion, if that conclusion turns out to be consistently wrong over a large enough sample, something is wrong with your assumptions.

  11. Westside guy on May 13th, 2011 12:18 pm

    I think it’s obvious some people are simply incapable of “judging the process, not the results”.

    For one – people who continually bring up the “Seattle must be cursed” argument, no matter how many times it’s shown to be demonstrably false. I almost didn’t dig up that link again, because the people who need to learn from it are going to ignore it anyway. Maybe this will be the last time.

  12. Jon Wells on May 13th, 2011 12:26 pm

    Actualy, Waco Kid, the M’s made the trade with Boston when Kotchman was arbitration-eligible and ended up settling with him for more than $3.5 million. Russell Branyan ended up signing with the Indians for $1.5 million (and the M’s gave up prospects to get him back when they were 15 games out in late June).

    So this wasn’t really about what they could afford last year,

  13. BLYKMYK44 on May 13th, 2011 12:33 pm

    @Westside. While most of the argument that players don’t get better when they leave it seems odd that besides Washburn none of the players got worse.

    Even more, it seems like for the most part it is the hitters who struggle during their time in Seattle and at this point it doesn’t seem like our pitching benefits have been able to offset those struggles for the majority of the time.

  14. The_Waco_Kid on May 13th, 2011 12:34 pm

    Branyan is injury-prone, I don’t blame them for passing on him in the offseason. When we did finally get him, he spent a lot of time on the DL.

  15. paracorto on May 13th, 2011 1:09 pm

    Curse ? Park factor ? No, it’s the organization.

  16. make_dave_proud on May 13th, 2011 1:14 pm

    I’m going to respectfully buck the trend here and ask a question.

    How does one judge a process without considering results?

    If results aren’t given any weight, how on earth do you know if you’re on the right track?

  17. rmarshall on May 13th, 2011 1:39 pm

    Lopez still sucks even in Colorado

  18. Shizane on May 13th, 2011 1:57 pm

    The process said it was a good idea to entrust 1B with Casey Freakin’ Kotchman, which is never a good idea considering there was a small chance (based upon his career to that point) that he would actually hit.

    Our process should have led us to an actual major league caliber 1B whose floor would have been at least equal to what Kotchman’s expectation would have been coming into the season. Everyone agrees that Kotchman is not a starting 1B in this league….why do we choose to take unnecessary risks? Bring a guy in that either has upside or has shown skills in the past….Kotchman had neither beyond his skill with the leather.

    The Pirates should be considering someone like Casey Kotchman. The Padres should be considering someone like Casey Kotchman. The Mariners, with almost $100m in payroll should NOT be considering someone like Casey Kotchman.

    To relate to fantasy baseball, Jack Z was in a 12 team mixed league and tried to get cute with a deep sleeper when all he had to do was take any number of options better than Kotchman.

  19. naviomelo on May 13th, 2011 2:17 pm

    Do you have any idea how much of that $100M was already committed by the time that they were able to look for a first baseman?

  20. BLYKMYK44 on May 13th, 2011 2:40 pm

    Everyone agrees that Kotchman is not a starting 1B in this league…

    – It seems like saying this is kind of strange considering that he has now started for three or four teams in his career…

  21. CarpCarter on May 13th, 2011 2:43 pm

    Did not know that about Kotchman this year. Now my day is worse.

  22. mlathrop3 on May 13th, 2011 2:43 pm

    I’m completely happy with our 1B situation at the moment, which is good as it leaves me more time to hate on the 3B situation.

  23. tylerv on May 13th, 2011 2:43 pm

    Its crazy how bad most dudes have played in Seattle the past decade. Just because no one has figured it out yet doesn’t mean it’s not a hitter’s black hole (not just the stadium, but the team, for whatever reason).

  24. Shizane on May 13th, 2011 2:47 pm

    BLYKMYK44 – If I had you name the 32 best 1B a year ago, would Kotchman have been on that list? No. Ronny Cedeno is a starting SS…does that make him good?

    naviomelo – Jack Z easily could have traded for a 1B and kept to the allotted payroll…..I understand he did not have the wherewithal to go out and sign a big-name FA.

  25. eman on May 13th, 2011 3:41 pm

    However, a GM does not simply sign a player and then hope for the best. He hires coaches and trainers to help him. We can judge Z for the quality of the coaches and trainers he hires. This is a very hard thing to judge as we have almost no information about them. But being that the team’s hitters are consistently underperforming, I think its worth looking at.

  26. jordan on May 13th, 2011 3:42 pm

    So… who is going bye bye to make room for Jeff Gray?

    League to the DL with a “headache”?

    Sure looks like its in his head at least.

  27. JasonJ on May 13th, 2011 3:43 pm

    I guess the moral of the story is that we’re due a break (or ten).

    I’m sure JackZ will gladly cash those in next year because the pressure will be on, right or wrong.

  28. Jon on May 13th, 2011 10:28 pm

    Judge the process, not the results. That is sound advice.I know this is going to sound more snarky than I intend, but Kotchman was indeed a low-cost flyer. How much credit does Jack Z get for using a process to sign a low-cost flyer? Either Kotchman finally hits major league pitching and you’ve gotten a good return or he still flails and you haven’t risked much (and maybe have some solid defense at least). Speaking of process, I am still trying to find a way to understand Jack Z’s process that went into the trade of Morrow for League (a pitcher I followed for years before the trade). As much as I thought League was a solid set-up guy, I could never see why anyone would ever trade Morrow for him. And nothing in the last 4-5 days makes me think any less of League than I did already. I still think he’s a solid set-up guy.

  29. dantheman on May 13th, 2011 11:01 pm

    “Baseball is weird and players are inconsistent.” Well, that explains everything. It does, however, leave a little bit to be desired from an analytical standpoint.

    “Judge the process, not the results.” Are you channeling Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln? Why isn’t Bud Selig appointing someone to take over the Mariners front office?

  30. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2011 8:13 am

    Are you channeling Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln?

    Yes, because Dave and USSM have historically been such sockpuppets for front office propaganda, never criticizing a move the team makes. You might as well be reading Mariner press releases.

    Our process should have led us to an actual major league caliber 1B whose floor would have been at least equal to what Kotchman’s expectation would have been coming into the season

    I take it you were thrilled when we signed Richie Sexson for four years? I mean, you can’t get any more prototypical free agent 1B than that, right? Lots of proven hitting ability, nice, expensive contract…

    Tell me, how did that work out?

    As for overreacting to last year… I suspect a lot of people are overreacting to last week. People are seriously suggesting Jamey Wright as a closer? Really? Brandon League isn’t a great closer, and arguably a trading mistake by Zduriencik, but he’s the best pitcher in the bullpen right now.

  31. StankeyGrammasBroglio on May 14th, 2011 9:13 am

    MX, MR, Paracorto, and all other of their ilk are RIGHT. There is something about this city that anyone who has lived here more than 20 yrs (with me it’s 40) notices. It’s that cultural and civic things are done for appearances and name-dropping. Nobody _really_ wants to be directly inside a bright, lively, confrontational civic culture. It’s not in the genes here (something about the dark northern climes of Scandinavia and the US northern prairie, with its own certain sort of darkness). THERE WILL BE A BASEBALL BOOK!! someday about all the tough, competitive masculine guys who tried to play agressive and dedicated ball here and were forced away because of the squishy, “Oh, let’s play with the moose, and stand up for fingernail-cancer” nonsense. And because of the squishily corrupt ownership (who got in bed with squishy, lib-lib corrupt politicians). And MakeDaveProud is ALSO RIGHT: “f___ process, if after 10 yrs. there’s no result” … it’s like the idiots who run our State Dept. and their 30 yrs. of “road maps” for the Middle East. Baseball/politics/sex/life/history… it’s all one.

  32. dantheman on May 14th, 2011 9:47 am

    “Dave and USSM have historically been such sockpuppets for front office propaganda, never criticizing a move the team makes. You might as well be reading Mariner press releases.”

    That’s the problem. The beauty of Bill James was that he looked at data and then drew conclusions from it, even when those conclusions completely turned the “Baseball Book” on its head. He did not use the data to justify pre-conceived ideas. But it seems here that the data is being used to do precisely that and when it’s impossible to reconcile the data with the pre-conceived ideas (e.g. Jack Z is a great general manager), then the data is simply tossed overboard (“Baseball is weird.”)

    Second, Jack Z may or may turn out to be a great general manager but he certainly can’t be said to be one based on the data so far. Bavasi is routinely crucified here but in 2+ years Jack Z’s record is questionable at best. Kotchman was signed for one horrendous year and let go to do much better. The Figgins signing was a huge mistake. The Bradley trade was terrible – we would have been much better off with Silva or just releasing Silva rather than paying the Cubs millions to take him in exchange for Bradley who was a disaster on multiple levels. Who could not have predicted that? Did anyone talk to any of the previous 7 or 8 general managers who got rid of him???

    All of which leads back to Armstrong and Lincoln who are not held accountable for any of the incredible mistakes of this franchise. Who after all hired Bavasi? Armstrong and Lincoln are systematically destroying this franchise before our eyes and driving the revenue down which will only ensure more years wandering in the baseball wasteland. Soon we’ll be looking back fondly on the Argyros years. I’m sure Chuck does.

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