Upgrades That Won’t Cost An Arm Or A Leg

Dave · October 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As we talked about last week, my perception of the roster as it stands is that the team lacks at least four solid Major League regulars – an outfielder, a third baseman, a catcher, and a starting pitcher. And, if they take my advice and dangle guys like Michael Pineda and Brandon League to get the Reds to entertain trading Joey Votto, they’ll need another starting pitcher and open up a hole in the bullpen.

Even the Yankees couldn’t fill all these holes in free agency, and the Mariners aren’t dealing with a New York sized budget, so they’ll have to bring in some players who can contribute without requiring substantial paychecks. No matter whether they end up spending on a guy like Votto, Fielder, or any other high profile star, the team needs more production from low cost guys in order to fill out the roster and keep the team from sinking due to having a few great players surrounded by a bunch of scrubs.

In this post, I’ll lay out suggestions for guys who I would target as potential acquisitions to fill needs on the roster who won’t command big paydays in 2012. They show up by order of preference, so I like the guys at the top more than at the bottom. Without further ado:

Chris Volstad, RHP, Florida

The owner of the quietest breakout season in recent memory, Volstad pulled a pretty nifty trick – in one season, he lowered his walk rate, upped his strikeout and groundball rates, and yet he still managed to see his ERA rise from where it was in 2010. The culprit – a crazy-high 25.5% HR/FB rate against left-handed batters. Volstad’s change-up is still a work in progress and he’ll always be better against RHBs than LHBs, but there’s a lot of positive regression likely to come his way in 2012, and with a bit better luck on keeping balls in the park, he could be a very useful innings eater in the middle of the rotation. He’s just 25-years-old and will be arbitration eligible for the first time, so the Mariners would control his rights for three years at discounted rates. The Marlins won’t give him away, but given that they had to watch all those home runs leave the park with their own eyes, he could probably be had for less than what he’s likely to be worth going forward.

Angel Pagan, OF, New York Mets

Perhaps one of the easiest buy-low opportunities in baseball, someone is going to get a steal with Pagan this winter. Most reports have the Mets looking to unload him and find a new center fielder, and given that he’ll likely make about $5 million in his final year of arbitration and is coming off an undoubtedly poor season, it’s not hard to see why. However, Pagan’s underlying offensive skills showed no real signs of decline, and his abysmal UZR looks like an outlier when viewed through the lens of the rest of his career. He’d be a fantastic option for the M’s, who could give him regular work in left and could use him to spell Gutierrez in center field, creating more roster flexibility by not having to carry another backup CF. He’s not a power bat kind of player, but he’s been a league average hitter over his MLB career, he’d likely be one of the league’s best defensive left fielders, and he’s a high-contact switch-hitter who could give the team a lot of flexibility in the line-up. Think of him as Randy Winn 2.0, just with a better arm. For roughly $5 million and whatever peanuts it takes to acquire him in trade, the team would be hard pressed to find a better option anywhere else.

Casey McGehee, 3B, Milwaukee

While everyone else is lusting after the Brewers first baseman, I’d take a run at the guy who plays third base instead. Or should I say played third base. McGehee’s poor season cost him his job, and he’s been displaced by Jerry Hairston in the playoffs, but like Pagan, he’s a pretty easy pick to bounce back in 2012. Nearly all of his struggles can be credited to a massive drop in his BABIP, which fell from .306 in 2010 to .249 this year. His small drop in power is slightly disconcerting, but there’s no reason to think that his ability to drive the ball just dried up at age 28. He’s not a star or anything close to it, but he’s a right-handed third baseman with some power and contact skills who could easily be a league average player in 2012, and given his poor season, won’t command a big paycheck in his first trip through arbitration. He’s also not the kind of guy who would stand in the way of future playing time for Kyle Seager or Alex Liddi if they show they’re ready for more regular playing time in the big leagues – McGehee could slide into a part-time 3B/1B/DH role without any issues. At the very least, he’d give them depth at the position so they had the option to let Seager and Liddi start 2012 back in Triple-A and evaluate further how the position will shake out long term, and they might just find that they picked up a decent third baseman for the next few years in the process.

Chris Snyder, C, Free Agent

If Snyder was left-handed, he’d be the exact opposite of Miguel Olivo. Where Miggy swings at every pitch thrown his way, Snyder brings a good approach to the plate. While Olivo is known for playing every day, Snyder has a long list of injury problems. Each are flawed players, but they’re differently flawed, and if given one job to share, it’s possible that the team could actually come up with a reasonably productive catcher platoon using them both. Snyder can’t be relied on as an everyday guy, but his offensive potential is something the line-up could really use, and Olivo’s reputation for being remarkably durable gives the team some security for those inevitable days when Snyder needs a day off. Back surgery and limited playing time will likely make all contract offers he gets very heavily incentive-laden, so there won’t be a big financial cost if he gets hurt again, but the upside is worth making him next year’s version of Erik Bedard.

There are a host of other guys who fit similar molds and would be able to fill gaps on the current roster without requiring too much of the team in terms of financial commitment or sacrifices of talent to acquire them, but these four are my favorites for the winter. By filling holes with low cost Major Leaguers who can provide significant upgrades over what the team has on hand internally, they can afford to make a push for one significant star that could improve the team dramatically. Like, say, Mr. Votto…

Comments

86 Responses to “Upgrades That Won’t Cost An Arm Or A Leg”

  1. Ibuprofen on October 10th, 2011 12:32 am

    Any reason why you prefer Snyder over Ryan Hanigan, Dave? Especially considering that you’d like to see the M’s dangle Pineda+League out there for Votto, it shouldn’t take too much extra to pry Hanigan away from them as well if that deal were to actually come to fruition.

    Hanigan gets on base at a career average .371 clip and plays great defense. He’s been regulated to a bench role in Cincinnati for the entirety of his career but could easily be a starter here in Seattle. Hanigan has no future with the Reds organization since their star catching prospect(s?) is set to break into the majors soon and could be acquired cheaply. He doesn’t have too much power and likely will never be an All-Star, but I’d take him over Olivo in an instant.

    Angel Pagan and Chris Volstad are great ideas that I had not heard mentioned so far. I’m not too keen on McGehee or Snyder, but at the same time I wouldn’t be disappointed or upset if we picked them up either.

  2. Bodhizefa on October 10th, 2011 12:43 am

    I think Dave would definitely prefer Hanigan. But Hanigan is a pretty good catcher on the cheap, and the Reds, while probably undervaluing him to a degree, would still ask for a pretty decent amount to acquire him from them. Hanigan, while ideal for the M’s, would likely cost more in talent to acquire than all the other players in this post combined.

  3. rth1986 on October 10th, 2011 6:03 am

    Great suggestions, but Ryan Hanigan would strongly be my preference as well. He’s the epitome of an undervalued asset. He’s above average across the board apart from the power. Would love for the M’s to get him to share playing time in 2012.

    Snyder is good, too, but I guess I’m one of the few remaining Mariner fans who still hold a grudge against him for the 2010 Spring Training incident with Cliff Lee. Hated him for a while, but I guess he is a useful player.

    Ryan Doumit could be a nice similar option. He’ll probably come cheap and he has nice versatility (even if he’s below average defensively everywhere he plays).

    I’ve been high on Angel Pagan for a while and was hoping that Zduriencik would target him back in late June when the M’s were still contending. Love his versatility as well. Definitely a Randy Winn clone. When the Mariners acquired Trayvon Robinson, I thought he might provide similar value to Pagan. But then Robinson had to and strike out 40% of the time while providing a lower WAR than Peguero. If Robinson can cool it on the K’s, I think he could definitely be of similar value to Pagan. That’s probably at least a half year away though.

    I like the Volstad idea, too. Never really paid much attention to him. He’s still really young and I could see him breaking out sometime soon.

    Casey McGehee…meh…I like his versatility, too, but I’d almost rather give 3B to one or two of Seager/Liddi/Figgins. Depends how cheap he would be. Might be a good idea to inquire about Ian Stewart as well.

  4. robbbbbb on October 10th, 2011 7:20 am

    You’re awfully down on Kyle Seager, Dave, and I’d like to know why you don’t think the M’s ought to use him as their #1 option at 3B next year. That could be an interesting post of its own.

  5. Dave on October 10th, 2011 7:36 am

    The Reds have no reason to trade Ryan Hanigan. Ramon Hernandez is a free agent and unlikely to return, so they need a veteran to split time with Mesoraco and potentially handle a starting workload if the kid falls on his face. Hanigan makes nothing and already knows their pitching staff, so he’s the perfect fit for that role.

    As for Seager, I just don’t see any above average Major League skill. He’s an okay defender with gap power who doesn’t walk that much and makes average amounts of contact. His minor league numbers are all inflated by BABIPs that he can’t put up in the majors, and if you’re just looking at his Triple-A slash line and thinking “hey, this guy is good!”, you’re missing the boat.

    To me, he’s basically Maicer Iztruis – a nice role player, but not a guy you want to just hand a starting job to without any competition. His problems against LHPs suggest he’s not even ready for an Izturis level of playing time. Personally, I think he should start 2012 back in Tacoma.

  6. ripperlv on October 10th, 2011 8:46 am

    I like your strategy for building the team, but it does pose a few question marks.

    Pagan is a decent ballplayer, but that would give us an outfield that produced 12 homers and 122 RBI’s all last season (thats all 3 players combined, not one player). All the OBP in the world ain’t going to make up for that lack of production. I know you plan on all three having better seasons, but that OF scares me.

    These players don’t come free. I know you mentioned dangling Pineda and Leauge for Votto. Who do you feel you would dangle for Volstad/Pagan/McGehee/Snyder?

    I know you don’t like Olivo, and I know why. But still he had a much better WAR than Ichiro. He still drove in 62 and scored 54. At least that’s production that appears on the scoreboard. Snyder hasn’t done that in his best year, though he would have easily passed that if he had more at bats. Wouldn’t we be better off concentrating somewhere else. Olivio’s signed for a year, he’s passable. I don’t hear of finding a better right fielder, even though there’s lots of them out there.

  7. Alec on October 10th, 2011 9:02 am

    RBI’s don’t matter at all, don’t bother looking at them. Neither do runs scored. And there are ways to produce without hitting HR’s too (a return to form from Ichiro would be a huge boost to the offense but wouldn’t add any to the HR total).

    Olivo and Ichiro play different positions so I don’t know why you are comparing them. And Ichiro is signed for another year too, and has a much longer and better track record of success than Olivo, plus even if you are a fan of Olivo for some strange reason, backup catcher is a position that needs to be filled regardless, and like Dave said, Snyder could come cheap.

  8. wsm on October 10th, 2011 9:06 am

    Pagan makes some sense, but probably as a January acquisition. They need to see how the bigger names in the DH/LF market shake out first. Power is definitely a bigger priority. And they Mets may just non-tender Pagan anyway.

    Snyder may be a good fit if he doesn’t find a better opportunity. He definitely would not be getting the majority of the playing time though. Adam Moore’s AFL showing may have some influence on which way the team goes here.

    Volstad is mildly interesting, but nothing special. He’s essentially a right-handed Jason Vargas with a year less service time. Maybe they could flip him for more than we paid for him in a year. It’s not like Vargas is going to bring a ton though.

    If we’re going to trade with Cincy, the guy we should be targeting is Yasmani Grandal. A legit switch-hitting catcher with 6 years of service time who’s blocked at the big league level. The Reds will trade him at some point, so they might as well see what it would cost now. League may be part of the equation but it might also take one of the kid pitchers which could be a deal breaker for me.

  9. ripperlv on October 10th, 2011 9:15 am

    RBI’s don’t matter at all, don’t bother looking at them.

    I know I’ve heard and read the arguments. But at the end of the day, these playoff teams are slugging the ball around (and out of) the park and driving in runs. Somebody is getting RBI’s.

  10. Alec on October 10th, 2011 9:19 am

    The fact that RBI’s are counted does not make them a useful stat.

  11. ripperlv on October 10th, 2011 9:23 am

    None the less, I wish the M’s had a couple hundred more.

  12. everett on October 10th, 2011 9:34 am

    The best way for a team to have a couple hundred more RBI is for them to score more runs. And the way to do that is by having better offensive players.

  13. Westside guy on October 10th, 2011 9:55 am

    I think people need to be a bit more precise in their language. RBIs are useless as a metric of an individual’s performance – but to simply state “RBIs don’t matter at all” is incorrect (or, at least, imprecise).

  14. MKT on October 10th, 2011 9:55 am

    The best way for a team to have a couple hundred more RBI is for them to score more runs. And the way to do that is by having better offensive players.

    Exactly. We’d all love to see the Mariners score more runs and have more RBIs. But chasing after, or relying upon, players who got a bunch of runs and RBIs this season is the wrong way to do it. The right way to do it is to chase after players who have good offensive skills.

    Anyone, even a relatively weak offensive player, can accumulate runs and RBIs if they’re put in the 3rd-5th place in the batting order. Olivo is Exhibit A for such a player.

    It’s like trying to win a World Series by chasing after players who have World Series rings. By that measure, the Mariners would’ve been better off with Luis Sojo than with Ted Williams.

  15. spankystout on October 10th, 2011 9:56 am

    The M’s need more HRs, triples, doubles, singles, and walks. There I put this argument to rest…I hope.

  16. ripperlv on October 10th, 2011 9:57 am

    I don’t think RBI’s are totally useless, because they are still an indicator of a hitter who drives in runs. It just doesn’t tell you his relationship to other hitters.
    RBI/RBI opportunity would be much more useful.

  17. robbbbbb on October 10th, 2011 9:58 am

    Seager essentially put up a league-average triple slash line for a 3B last year. He doesn’t have any standout tools, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, either.

    I think looking at his AAA triple slash is a bad idea. Small sample size theater. But if you look at his minor league record as a whole, the guy’s got solid plate discipline and contact skills.

    He put up a 94 wRC in a third of a season at the major league level. His floor is probably replacement level, but I bet he finishes the year with a positive WAR if you give him 600 PA. He’s not going to kill you if he gets 600 PA at 3B next year.

    As you rightly note, the M’s have multiple holes to fill this offseason. Seager can fill one of those holes. He’s not going to light the world on fire, but he’d be a positive contributor and has a good chance to put up a league-average season.

    Yeah, if you can find an upgrade go for it. But of the four positions you’ve named as “problems” for the M’s, 3B has to be the lowest on the priority list.

  18. LewLegend on October 10th, 2011 9:59 am

    I’m kind of confused on this Dave. You say our needs are catcher, outfield, SP, and RP. So, we’re going to trade for Joey Votto? I’m thinking maybe Jay Bruce might be a better option here. I’m thinking a year out of Smoak/Carp in comparison with Votto vs. a Jay Bruce type vs. our LF production might be more advantageous. 158 strikeouts is a little depressing but he’d fit right in I guess and would probably cost less than Votto.

    Also, what would Figgins look like in the Pagan role? I think Figgins best attribute at this point in his career might be his speed.

    At catcher, Olivo is a flawed player and I don’t mind the Snyder idea. That’s if Wedge doesn’t throw Olivo out there 6 days a week.

    Pagan, meh. Volstad, maybe.

    Nice post Dave.

  19. bookbook on October 10th, 2011 10:03 am

    I like these ideas. Obviously, no one’s going to be excited about any of this in isolation. We’re all worried about the core.

    But it brings to mind the several years of the M’s not being able to win with Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar and Randy Johnson (and Buhner). The supporting cast really matters. Jack’s going to need to make several marginal improvements–which is really difficult to do.

    By the way, once Olivo stopped taking walks, his offense became crazy unacceptably bad. Any chance a decent hitting coach could get him to walk for more than just the first two months of any year? Does his strike-zone judgement fade from overwork or something? Bizarre.

  20. JoshJones on October 10th, 2011 10:07 am

    Ripperlv,

    Don’t bother with the RBI, runs scored, or HR’s argument. It doesn’t work on this site. Instead you have to disguise your point. For example: Olivio is much more dependable and plays everyday so we can expect him to put up 15HR’s and 50 RBI’s in 400AB’s in comparison to Snyder who has no track record of staying healthy or contributing on a daily basis. He’s worth taking a flyer on or even signing to a minor league deal. And like Dave said he would work well as a platoon WITH Olivio.

    A.K.A. RBI’s, runs, and HR’s are a valuable statistic worth taking into consideration. Just remember so are sabermatrics, OPS, OBP, AVG, FX, WHIP and a list of other useful forms of statistics.

  21. HighBrie on October 10th, 2011 10:13 am

    Is this a three part series? 1. Won’t cost an arm and a leg, 2. costs 1 arm or 1 leg (Sizemore types) 3. no arms no legs jokes (Prince, Pujols).

  22. Paul B on October 10th, 2011 10:23 am

    One additional point about simple counting stats such as RBI (also true for pitcher’s ERA):

    While they do measure something that happened, they are not good predictors of future performance. There are other measures that are much better at predicting how a player will do in the future. Therefore, when talking about how a player is likely to do in the future, why not use the measures that are best for that?

    (Yeah, I know, in the case of Olivo, those measures all say he is a terrible hitter, so that is why you don’t use those measures).

  23. ripperlv on October 10th, 2011 10:29 am

    Got it. thanks

  24. JoshJones on October 10th, 2011 10:41 am

    I wouldn’t say hes a terrible hitter. Teams seem to enojoy running him out there daily for the past 8 seasons for 300AB’s. 5 Major league ball clubs seem to think he’s worth playing pretty consistently. His value lyes in statistics that are in my opinion undervalued on this site.
    - Pitchers like pitching to him.
    - He’s durable/dependable.
    - Good club house guy

    His problem is he gets to hit a little too much. But is that really his problem or his platoon partner/back up catchers problem because they can’t be depended on?

    400AB’s this season was WAAAY to much. But nobody else was going to do any better. Split 500AB’s between him and a guy like chris snyder/jesus flores/ryan doumit/adam moore and you might get above average stats from our catching position next season.

    Oh wait…No miguel olivio just sucks. WRONG.

  25. Dave on October 10th, 2011 10:44 am

    Seager essentially put up a league-average triple slash line for a 3B last year. He doesn’t have any standout tools, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, either.

    Sure he does – he can’t hit left-handed pitching. 78% of his plate appearances in the big leagues came against RHPs. If you try to make him a full-time player, that number will drop to something more like 65%, and his overall line will take a pretty significant hit.

    At this point in time, Seager’s probably an 85-90 wRC+ if he plays everyday. His value comes from being able to play multiple positions not-horribly, but you waste that if you decide to make him a regular player at the hot corner.

    I wouldn’t say hes a terrible hitter.

    That’s because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  26. gwangung on October 10th, 2011 10:50 am

    - Pitchers like pitching to him.
    - He’s durable/dependable.
    - Good club house guy

    Personally, I think you’re trying to make these primary attributes, when they should be secondary attributes; i.e., they should matter when all other production attributes are equal. Being dependable/durable is really kinda useless when you’re lousy. Being dependable/durable is useful when you’re average or better.

  27. JoshJones on October 10th, 2011 10:53 am

    Come on Dave. I agree that he needs someone to platoon with and he’s getting way to many AB’s. He also has NO patience. But that dosen’t make him a terrible hitter. It makes him a horribly over used/misused player. He hit way below his typical slash line this season, which although isn’t impressive it’s a big difference. And can probablly be contributed to him trying to hit more HR’s since his team was in last place.

    “i dont know what i’m talking about”

    Totally unnessecary. You disagree. Much like a lot of people disagree with you on Olivio’s worth on this team. I log into this site daily to read what you and everyone else has to read. While I might disagree, I try do that respectfully.

  28. JoshJones on October 10th, 2011 10:54 am

    Insert: “Oh well I repectfully think you don’t know what your talking about.”

  29. robbbbbb on October 10th, 2011 11:03 am

    Re: Seager. “Sure he does – he can’t hit left-handed pitching”

    That’s got to be based on a scouting, not statistical argument. Yes? In which case I’m out-of-my-depth. He’s got 43 PA in MLB against LHP.

    That sounds like an argument for making Seager a platoon player. But does that stunt his growth? Could Seager learn to hit against LHP if given the chance? (It’s the Russell Branyan argument, from when he first broke into the league.)

  30. Mike Snow on October 10th, 2011 11:09 am

    JoshJones: It’s Olivo, not Olivio. More generally, please review the comment guidelines. I recommend the parts about new commenter auditions as well, where it references spelling and capitalization.

  31. nwade on October 10th, 2011 11:25 am

    ripperlv – Let me try to restate your comment in another way: You want guys who can *help* with run-scoring. As many have already pointed out, RBI is a bad stat because it depends on what the people ahead of you in the lineup are doing. If they suck, you get few RBIs no matter how good of a hitter you are. Same with runs scored: No matter how good YOU are at getting on base, if the guys after you suck, you score no runs.

    What you may be looking for, is a “clutch hitter”. Someone who can drive in runs whenever he gets the opportunity. Someone who has a high contact rate and/or high OBP with RISP.

    I’m still new enough that I couldn’t tell you exactly how to read the tea-leaves, but there are several advanced stats that measure things like contact rate, OBP, and plate discipline (O-Swing, Z-Swing). They’ll give better information (leading hopefully to a better decision on which player to chase after) than simple RBIs would.

  32. Dennisss on October 10th, 2011 11:25 am

    JoshJ: If you read this site every day, you know, or will learn, that Dave can be very…candid…when he disagrees with you. Consider it a badge of honor and a chance to sharpen your analysis. Don’t take it personally.

  33. dchappelle on October 10th, 2011 11:26 am

    Oh, he’s definitely a terrible hitter:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=c&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=400&type=8&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0&team=0&players=0

    Dead last in woba and wRC+ for catchers with 400+ PA. Even his wRC+ of 90 from last year would’ve ranked him in the bottom quarter and that’s with a .346 BABIP. Walking in 27% = terrible hitter.

    The saddest part is that his splits aren’t even different so you can’t expect much improvement if platooned.

  34. The_Waco_Kid on October 10th, 2011 11:41 am

    I also think Dave is selling Seager short, but I liked that his McGehee plan tried not to block Seager. Seager spent little time in AAA and I guess he could use a little more.

    While I’m excited about a lot of these rookies, it’s important to remember that some of them got called up because our offense was terrible, not because they were really ready.

  35. Valenica on October 10th, 2011 11:41 am

    Personally, I think you’re trying to make these primary attributes, when they should be secondary attributes; i.e., they should matter when all other production attributes are equal. Being dependable/durable is really kinda useless when you’re lousy. Being dependable/durable is useful when you’re average or better.

    I think these attributes matter more than you think. Our team is completely devoid of veteran leadership, the only guys with more than 1.5 years of experience are Ichiro, Guti, Ryan, and Olivo. There’s a reason why Ryan and Olivo are the club house leaders. There’s a reason we signed Pena (hint: it probably wasn’t his bat). Clubhouse matters. He’s a great game caller, and helps develop our young pitchers who don’t know what works at the MLB level. And having a Catcher who’s always there means you’re not yoyoing even worse catchers up from AA/AAA to fill in for him. His bad offensive year could be attributed to his low BABIP (.270) – raise that up to league average and he’s at 80 wRC+ with plus defense. Looking at it like that, 3B’s a bigger hole than C (90-95 wRC+ with bad defense at a power position)

  36. just a fan on October 10th, 2011 12:13 pm

    Regarding Olivo (full disclosure, I liked the signing although I cannot deny his league-worst 0.9 WAR and that the M’s need another catcher to take some of his PAs):

    I wonder how much value we should consider a veteran catcher working with young pitchers? There is an art to throwing the right pitches at the right time, and I do wonder if Olivo might be good at helping young hurlers learn how to work around situations.

    That’s not to say there aren’t better options or that he should be playing 130-140 games/year, but if Felix likes pitching to Olivo and the young guys learn how to pitch in the majors more quickly, maybe he’s got another useful ML skill besides slugging the intermittent dinger?

  37. nwade on October 10th, 2011 1:14 pm

    A couple of points about veterans:
    1) Valencia – You forgot Felix. Also Vargas is something of a veteran at this point, too. So that gives you 2 SPs, 2 OFs, an IF, and a C that are all “Veterans” by your definition. I know I’m missing a couple of guys (like relievers), but already that is over 25% of your 25-man roster. How much “veteran” atmosphere do you need (on top of all the coaches and assistants who are also former players)?

    2) Why do people assume that veterans are a positive influence? They can just as easily be a negative influence! Experience does not always make someone better, or more appropriate for a task. One of my hobbies is flying gliders, and I’ve seen instructors with 10,000 hours in airplanes (i.e. 30+ years of professional flying) make HUGE mistakes. They (and others) assumed that their experience would protect them or give them an edge. But it turns out that they can fall prey to the same mistakes as any of us, and they can also have habits or styles that rub people the wrong way or make them a poor fit for instructing; no matter what their pilot’s license says!

    Coming back to Baseball: As outsiders, we simply don’t have enough information to know what’s going on in the clubhouse and who’s a good “veteran presence” or not.

  38. thedude1987 on October 10th, 2011 1:18 pm

    “There’s a reason we signed Pena (hint: it probably wasn’t his bat). ”

    He was signed for his bat. I believe pineda was signed as a third basemen when he was 15. He grew a foot and gained almost a 100lbs in 2-3 years. They put him on the mound for a pitching tryout and were blown away.

    If you see him in person his head looks really small compared to his body.

  39. eponymous coward on October 10th, 2011 1:37 pm

    Looking at it like that, 3B’s a bigger hole than C (90-95 wRC+ with bad defense at a power position)

    Dave said “okay defender”.

    My big problem with sending Seager down to AAA is that you can’t play Liddi AND Seager at 3B simultaneously, and moving Seager over to 2B puts him behind the massive roadblock of Dustin Ackley. Seager’s not a SS.

    It almost makes more sense to think “OK, trade chip” with one of Seager/Liddi if you think that 1) they aren’t ready for 2012 and 2) we need someone who IS ready at 3B for 2012. Then you send the other guy down.

    The other thing I’ll mention is that “average MLB skills, nothing special at anything” pretty much describes David Bell, to a T, who went on to a pretty decent MLB career. If that’s Kyle Seager (and that IS honestly the vibe I get off of him, reinforced by the fact that Bell was also a guy who bounced around the diamond a bit), with a bit more upside to Seager strictly because of handedness, that’s not a bad player. Bell started to be “ready for MLB job” a little later than Seager (25).

    Dave, did you see Seager play much when he was in NC? If so, how do you think he’s developed since then?

  40. goat on October 10th, 2011 1:37 pm

    I’m in the pro-Hannigan camp, as well. Maybe including Olivo in the deal would make it likely. He’s got one year left, so they might prefer that to the multiyears of Hannigan as a backup, particularly if they have 2 young catchers coming up. I know we’d have to include way more than Olivo to get him, but that might fill the hole they’d end up with at C.

    It seems that the market for 3B this winter will be such that even acquiring someone like McGehee would be relatively costly. Is Jerry Hairston the Brewers permanent solution at 3B? Pablo Sandoval got benched in the playoffs last year, but the Giants aren’t about to just give him away now. Although it would be pretty hilarious if we could get him for Carp. The Brewers could be in the market for an affordable 1B, afterall.

  41. gwangung on October 10th, 2011 2:01 pm

    Clubhouse matters.

    Please demonstrate. (Also, in my book, trying to replace tangibles like OBP and SLG with the intangibles is a very Bavasi way of looking at things–ie. not very effective).

  42. Mike Snow on October 10th, 2011 2:04 pm

    Seager’s not a SS

    He’s not a guy who can be an everyday shortstop like Brendan Ryan, but as a utility player when you want to rest the starter or need an injury replacement, he’s fine. The point is mostly that if you have Seager, you can have your real backup shortstop be the guy in Tacoma, whether that’s a prospect like Franklin or a veteran fringe player like Luis Rodriguez.

  43. Paul B on October 10th, 2011 2:12 pm

    I wonder how much value we should consider a veteran catcher working with young pitchers? There is an art to throwing the right pitches at the right time, and I do wonder if Olivo might be good at helping young hurlers learn how to work around situations.

    What if that catcher lead the league in errors, and almost lead the league in passed balls, and also allowed a very high number of wild pitches? Still think he has that good veteran goodness?

    I would think a young pitcher would like to throw to a catcher who can catch the ball.

    The “pitchers like throwing to him” argument is why we had to suffer through Rob Johnson.

    with plus defense

    Are we talking about the same guy? the one who was a -3 defensive value this year?

    I really liked a line Jeff had over at LL.

    At last, we have end-of-season data that isn’t going to look different a day or a week later, so I can finally put Miguel Olivo’s .253 OBP in its proper context. Miguel Olivo led the 2011 Mariners in home runs! He also led them in RBI! He made outs 75% of the time he came to the plate! That’s amazing!

  44. Paul B on October 10th, 2011 2:19 pm

    A question though, how many wild pitches did Olivo allow last season? Baseball-reference says 58, Fangraphs says 1. I can’t believe either of those two numbers, am I reading something wrong?

  45. eponymous coward on October 10th, 2011 2:51 pm

    He’s not a guy who can be an everyday shortstop like Brendan Ryan, but as a utility player when you want to rest the starter or need an injury replacement, he’s fine. The point is mostly that if you have Seager, you can have your real backup shortstop be the guy in Tacoma, whether that’s a prospect like Franklin or a veteran fringe player like Luis Rodriguez.

    Sure, but the difference in salary between “veteran fringe utility player who actually can play SS, and won’t kill you if they get 200 PAs a year” and Seager’s minimal- but having Seager get 10 plate appearances over three weeks, whenever Eric Wedge or the manager du jour forgets he’s on the bench isn’t optimal for developing him into (potentially) a better player- especially if he’s not really ready/a finished product, and could use the time in AAA.

    Maicer Izturis, for whatever it’s worth, grades out as a 1.5-3 WAR player, once he was used in something approaching full time (400-500 PAs)- which is to say, someone contributing ~league average performance at the position they are playing.

    I can understand the argument for having a ~league average player as a bench player/not-quite regular, bouncing between positions. The Mariners were a good team when they had guys like David Bell, Mark McLemore and Stan Javier as various shades of not-quite-regulars, in that sort of role (similar to what Izturis does for the Angels). The thing is, they aren’t to the point yet where they have more players who grade out to be ~league average or better than lineup spots to put them in…

  46. nwade on October 10th, 2011 3:08 pm

    Catchers don’t make wild pitches, pitchers do. :-) Passed balls, on the other hand….
    (and complicating matters are that the official game scorer controls how they’re classified and muddies these stats – much like line-drive rate)

  47. TumwaterMike on October 10th, 2011 3:18 pm

    Andre Ethier, Left Field for the M’s in 2012.

  48. Valenica on October 10th, 2011 3:29 pm

    The guy who was -3 this year, but +11 last year? Yeah, he has a PB+WP problem, but his arm cancels it out (or should) and actually adds value, not to mention his pitch calling. Also leading the league is bad, but PB+WP stats are counting stats – about as worthless as RBI in that regard. But Chris Snyder and his 23% CS% is going to help win games. If all those 0.3s aren’t turning into 1.2 REs first.

    And how does clubhouse matter? Did you read the news about Boston pitchers drinking beer and treating the game like it’s worthless? Or how Florida treats Hanley like a god and let’s him get fat/hit however he wants, yet Logan Morrison hits .250 and they demote him, prompting him (and the rest of his teammates) to want to leave Florida forever and never come back? Is that the type of environment you want for developing young players first time through the majors? Retaining players and developing young players need good veterans around them. Olivo, by all accounts, is a good veteran. As for Pena, he’s also known as a great guy to hang out with. In a losing season, that has some value too.

    Not everything is about OBP and SLG. Those are great, but sometimes it’s not worth adding 20 points of wOBA to take away a clubhouse leader, a guy everyone likes, and 21 UZR/1000 games over 1 UZR/630 games.

    Now Seager – -6.6 UZR/150 at 3B. He could get better, maybe eventually average if he learns how to throw properly, but he’s not a good defensive 3B. His bat, nothing special. Whoever compared him to David Bell – David Bell had 3 2+ WAR seasons in 12 seasons with good defense. I don’t want David Bell.

    Can we stop thinking about throwing away our prospects at replacement level – league average players who are only better because they’re older? We need to believe in our development team, or else we’re not going to win. We don’t need 1-2 WAR players. We need to play our 0-1 WAR players and hope a couple turn into 3+ WAR players.

    Case in point – underrated Francisco Martinez. 20 year old in AA hit .310/.326/.481. Nick Franklin, 20 year old in AA? .325/.371/.482. Besides his eye, he’s just as good as Franklin. These guys are 3 years younger than Seager. In 3 years, how much better do you think these guys can get than 94 wRC+ Seager? Give these guys a good environment, and the wins will come.

  49. Mathball on October 10th, 2011 3:29 pm

    So what does a line up of :
    1b Smoak
    2b Ackley
    3b Seager
    SS Ryan
    C Olivo
    Lf Wells
    Cf Guti
    RF Ichiro
    DH Carp

    project out for WAR next year?

    Lots of ifs, but they play like they did this year it should be higher than 5.1. (less Figgins, no Cust, Bradley etc) For example if Carp’s BABIP regress to the mean, and he is projected out for 150 games, what would that look like?

    While it is fun to think of what players we can get, I’d really like to see what people think we already have in terms of WAR for next year. That way we can talk about replacing x WAR for y WAR.

    I suppose that is way to much to ask for, right?

  50. Ibuprofen on October 10th, 2011 3:36 pm

    Now that he’s sort of come up in the discussion: What’s the chance that Wily Mo comes back to us next season? I don’t expect him to be an everyday player, but getting spot starts at DH and a power threat off the bench is something to consider, especially since he’s apparently a big boost in the clubhouse.

  51. Mike Snow on October 10th, 2011 3:37 pm

    having Seager get 10 plate appearances over three weeks, whenever Eric Wedge or the manager du jour forgets he’s on the bench isn’t optimal for developing him into (potentially) a better player- especially if he’s not really ready/a finished product, and could use the time in AAA.

    Sure, it depends to what extent the decision about Seager is based on what’s best for the roster as opposed to what’s best for Seager’s development. If he’s still your best utility player, do you send him down? Will playing every day in Tacoma help his development enough to make him a materially better player, maybe even remove doubts about whether he could be a regular starter at third? I understand the impulse to send him down, but I’m not sure it’s the right answer.

    I know we reflexively find it objectionable when Wedge justifies playing somebody like Peguero with logic implying that the only way they can really learn what they need is on-the-job training in the major leagues. A better hitting approach can and should be coached in the minors, and if Peguero doesn’t show marked improvement, he should stay there. But if the big problem for Seager is hitting big-league lefthanders, then I’m skeptical that getting him lots of practice against the Bobby Livingstons and Anthony Vasquezes of the world is going to produce the necessary improvement. I think you have to get him experience against the genuine article, and if you’re not in a position to do that, then use him primarily as a platoon player, or trade him to a team with more capacity to absorb his growing pains. He’s already big-league caliber as a platoon player, so minor league development isn’t needed in that sense.

  52. Paul B on October 10th, 2011 3:48 pm

    The guy who was -3 this year, but +11 last year?

    That 11 was a fluke. It accounts for over half of his total defensive value (over a 10 year career) all by itself. He’s never come close to that.

    (and complicating matters are that the official game scorer controls how they’re classified and muddies these stats – much like line-drive rate)

    That’s right, that is why you have to look at both passed balls and wild pitches for a catcher. If a catcher handles some real wild pitchers you give them a break, but the Mariners don’t have any knuckleballers.

  53. nwade on October 10th, 2011 4:56 pm

    Valencia – Your clubhouse problems/examples point at bad Management, not an argument for/against veteran players. Also, I don’t see how ANY of us are in a position to cite Olivo as a positive influence or a clubhouse leader. Any “accounts” we get of his behavior in the clubhouse are going to be filtered, as few guys are going to want to call anyone out or air any dirty laundry… Hence my earlier comments about not being able to use “clubhouse” or “chemistry” factors – we simply lack factual and accurate information. So we should discount those items (or at MOST “weight” that very lightly, compared to other factors) when evaluating a player. Also, see Paul B’s comments about the +11 season.

    I mostly agree with your evaluation of Seager, though. I would love to see him blossom; but he just doesn’t look like he’s about to break out. A season of AAA might be good, and if he still doesn’t appear like he’s going to become an above-average player maybe he becomes trade-bait or a utility player.

  54. just a fan on October 10th, 2011 5:22 pm

    What if that catcher lead the league in errors, and almost lead the league in passed balls, and also allowed a very high number of wild pitches? Still think he has that good veteran goodness?

    Well, pitchers blame themselves for wild pitches.

    You’re distorting what I wrote with the “good veteran goodness” line. What I’m talking about is a catcher who knows how to pitch to batters, and basically being an on-field pitching coach with the younger guys.

    I do think having a good game-caller behind the plate helps the long-term development of these pitchers, along with helping them get through trouble.

    This isn’t to say that Olivo is great, or that he can’t be replaced — it’s just he does provide some value behind the plate, and it’s not like the Mariners have hitters lining up down the block wanting to hit in Safeco.

    Not being able to quantify something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  55. Valenica on October 10th, 2011 6:33 pm

    First of all, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is – it’s the effect it has. If we magically acquire Hanley and he’s lazy, gets fat, doesn’t watch tape, but hits like he always does so we can’t bench him, it shows the kids you can do whatever you want if you’re talented enough. Veterans set examples.

    And just because we can’t “measure” it we should discount it? That doesn’t make sense – it exists, and plays a factor, and we should measure it to the best of our ability, even if it’s not a “number.”

    I never once said Olivo was good. He’s not great, his OBP is awful, but he was a bit unlucky. He’s a good defender, probably +2-3 is his real talent level. But he provides veteran leadership according to Wedge, Drayer, and people involved with the club, and his game calling is miles better than Adam Moore’s. Maybe Hanigan or Snyder can call a better game, maybe not, but we know Olivo can. And when we have Paxton/Hultzen penciled in to come up 2012, that’s an asset. Maybe Hanigan or Snyder can step up and be a clubhouse voice, maybe they can’t, but we know Olivo can. All I’m saying is there’s risk we’re not accounting for by replacing a guy with intangible assets and replacing him with an guy we don’t know.

  56. puppyfoot on October 10th, 2011 6:42 pm

    Obviously, better hitters (which the M’s don’t have) not only get more hits – they get more HR’s. But it is worth noting that the top 7 AL teams in HR’s all played better than .500 ball (except for Baltimore) and all 4 playoff teams were among those 7. Of the worst 7 HR hitting teams none made the playoffs and only 1 (the Angels) finished over .500. I know many posters here disparage “dingers”, but when, especially at the start of the 2011 season, you put a team with next to no power at the four corner positions plus a no power DH, you are just asking for a 100 loss season. If the M’s are waiting around for nine Ichiro’s so they can get 20 or so singles a game and score 3 runs – it ain’t gonna happen.

  57. bostock4ever on October 10th, 2011 7:20 pm

    Why not Endy Chavez, if he wants to come back to Seattle? 2011 .301/.323/.426 line is superior to Pagan’s and he has 1.5 WAR vs .9 for Pagan, and they are close to the same age.

  58. bookbook on October 10th, 2011 8:14 pm

    There is a certain tendency to hyperbole that gets the best of us all at times.
    RBIs aren’t actually a useless stat. All else equal, the hitter with more RBIs is in fact the better hitter. Driving runs in is useful. RBI expressed as a rate stat (RBI percentage?) would be more useful, but RBI as a counting stat has a small correlation to value, just as a 20-game winning pitcher will more often have had a better year than a 10-game winner.

    Now, “dingers’ is a direct disparagement of the many folks who crazily overvalue home runs as a component of total offensive production. Hitting home runs is a really good idea. Accepting a 75% out rate in order to get 19 dingers is not, if you want to lose fewer than 90 games.

  59. rightwingrick on October 11th, 2011 7:30 am

    Dave,
    I just don’t think you trade a 23 year old potential superstar stud pitcher under your control for almost no money, to get a first baseman you’ll have to pay $15 million and have under control for only two years…especially when you have two guys (Carp and Smoak) you think are on the verge of establishing themselves as big time hitters at the same position.

    Great young cheap pitching is incredibly hard to find; if you are going to give it up, it seems to me you do it for a stud you will have under control for several years in a position where you have bigger question marks (left field, third base, catcher).

  60. KaminaAyato on October 11th, 2011 7:36 am

    Here’s the other thing about HR’s…

    They’re unpredictable….

    In the short-run at least. We may be able to figure out who the HR hitters are and how many they’ll hit (roughly). Dan Uggla is a perennial 30 HR guy for instance.

    The problem is that HR’s are volatile. Yes, they are by definition indefensible, but you can go 2 weeks without hitting one, then hit 5 in the next 7 games.

    And if you’re building a team for the playoffs, I believe you can’t necessarily afford that type of volatility.

    Instead, give me a team that can spray the ball all over the place. There’s only so far a defense can cover on the field. And there’s no defense for being base hit to death.

    One can argue that that method is also volatile. Even if you put together a team predominantly of 0.280/0.350/* hitters, your batters are getting on base slightly better than one out of every 3 times. So it’s not automatic that you’re getting a run there either. It’s going to take a couple of events strung together to get a run in.

    But take a look at it in this context. Our former 3B Adrian Beltre hit 32 HRs this past season. He did that in 525 PA’s. So on average 1 out of every 16 PA’s he hit a HR, or roughly 1 every 3-4 games. Like I said before though, that’s an average. I’d rather not have to depend on that to win a game.

    So, to me while HRs are a guaranteed run, I’d much rather see a team get on base and make the opposing team slowly suffer. Any HRs I get are just a bonus. (It’s the reason why I would yell at games to just get on base when they were slightly behind, and that trying to work a walk wasn’t a bad thing). It’s not sexy, but I think it works.

  61. Chris_From_Bothell on October 11th, 2011 7:36 am

    Apart from Volstad, I’m not seeing how these are upgrades.

    Replacing Seager, projected to be a league average player, with someone who should be a league average player… importing a left fielder with no power when we badly need power and have a glut of generic outfielders already… a huge injury risk at catcher who, even if healthy and only played a couple times a week, doesn’t have much upside.

    Volstad in Safeco should be an upgrade, even with the homerun problem. The M’s don’t need a premium player for the rotation. But for the position players, well… Votto, or his caliber, is a real upgrade. Players brought in this winter should be about that level, or just don’t bother. Skip the bargain basement shopping and save the money and prospects for impact players.

    (Note that I’m not doing the “one or two bats away” argument. This roster isn’t one or two players away. But just as they’re not going to be magically saved by a Fielder or a Pujols, they’re also not going to be made better by plugging in a few blue light specials.)

    I like Mathball’s question above. What’s the WAR of the roster right now? At a given position, if you can’t significantly improve on Wells / Guti / Ichi / Smoak / Ackley / Ryan / Seager / Carp / Olivo, on the order of a couple WAR or more at a position, it’s not worth it.

  62. gwangung on October 11th, 2011 7:45 am

    Not being able to quantify something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Yes, but if you can’t quantify it, you won’t be able to figure out how much emphasis to put on it and how much to sacrifice in production to get it.

    If the unquantifiable only adds a smidge to the bottom line, then I’m really not certain it’s worth it to go seek it out.

  63. Westside guy on October 11th, 2011 8:04 am

    RBIs aren’t actually a useless stat. All else equal, the hitter with more RBIs is in fact the better hitter.

    The fundamental problem is that “all else is NOT equal”. Why use a stat that is dependent on the performance of others, when there are readily available, uncomplicated stats that also quantify what RBI purports to measure?

    Driving runs in is useful. RBI expressed as a rate stat (RBI percentage?) would be more useful, but RBI as a counting stat has a small correlation to value.

    It’s very easy to find out how well – or poorly – a player hit with runners on base or in scoring position. Olivo’s overall average was .223 this year; his average with men on base was .226, and with men in scoring position it was .225. He quite obviously didn’t hit any better under those circumstances – why obfuscate that by saying “he drove in 62 runs” and pretending that actually tells us something it doesn’t?

  64. Chris_From_Bothell on October 11th, 2011 8:58 am

    Ok, sorry, I retract my previous concern.

    Unless multiple players can realistically improve more than 2 or 3 WAR from one season to the next, and/or this year’s WAR values are seriously affected by health or playing time, perhaps some cheap upgrades are in order. This year was more dire than I thought.

    Looking up 2011 WAR on Fangraphs:

    Name WAR
    Dustin Ackley 2.7
    Brendan Ryan 2.6
    F.Gutierrez 1.1
    Miguel Olivo 0.9
    Casper Wells 0.6
    Mike Carp 0.5
    Kyle Seager 0.5
    Justin Smoak 0.5
    Ichiro Suzuki 0.2

    My god. Just getting some 1.5 / 2 WAR players in a few of those spots really helps.

  65. Badbadger on October 11th, 2011 10:33 am

    In fairness though, a lot of those players didn’t play a whole season, and would have presumably produced more WAR had they had more chances.

  66. Pete Livengood on October 11th, 2011 10:52 am

    puppyfoot wrote:

    “But it is worth noting that the top 7 AL teams in HR’s all played better than .500 ball (except for Baltimore) and all 4 playoff teams were among those 7. Of the worst 7 HR hitting teams none made the playoffs and only 1 (the Angels) finished over .500. I know many posters here disparage “dingers”, but when, especially at the start of the 2011 season, you put a team with next to no power at the four corner positions plus a no power DH, you are just asking for a 100 loss season.”

    The many posters here who “disparage ‘dingers’” do so because of the focus on HRs without an appropriate level of attention also given to things like OBP, outs made, contact/K rate, and other more advanced metrics that directly measure how often and how hard players hit the ball. Hitting talent, not just the ability to hit home runs.

    Clearly, hitting home runs is a good thing. But the success you described for playoff teams is less correlated with hitting home runs, I am sure, than it is with OBP and contact rates. Production (whether in the form of home runs or not) comes with the territory of making good, solid contact, more regularly, so look for those guys. Just as you might struggle with a team of nine clones of Ichiro (at least 2011 Ichiro), you would struggle far more with nine clones of Dave Kingman.

    The other thing I would note is, obviously contact alone isn’t everything, and power (SLG) is important. But home runs aren’t the only way to be a productive power guy. Give me the high OBP/doubles machine that Edgar was any day over a 30 HR/45 XBH, 150 K guy who grounds into 25 double plays every year, even if that guy does lead the team in dingers and RBI.

    And to Chris_From_Bothell: I’m glad you’ve re-thought your position against making any incremental improvements in favor of making only splashier moves, but I’m not sure that just looking at 2011 WAR from a 2012-projected line-up that, for the most part, played less than full seasons is a good way to reach that conclusion. I think you need to look at WAR projected to 650 or 700 PA, or something close to that, and compare THAT to a similar projection for a an outside guy you’re looking at (and discount for injury-proneness or other PT issues on both sides if you need to).

    If you do that, those players’ WAR/700 PA looks more like:

    Ackley 3.9
    Ryan 3.4
    Guti 1.7
    Olivo 1.6
    Wells 1.1*
    Carp 0.8
    Seager 0.9
    Smoak 0.7
    Ichiro 0.2

    * If you project based on Wells’ 2011 totals of 1.5 WAR over 241 PA instead of his 0.6 over 116 PA just with Seattle, which you should, he projects to a 2.5 WAR player over 700 PA.

    This is still an offense in dire need of upgrades, but it isn’t quite as dire as your chart painted it. And, there are reasons to think some players (Guti, Wells, Smoak) vastly underperformed their expected WAR because of injury, others (Ichiro) vastly underperformed a long body of work at higher levels and, even accounting for age/decline, should progress to a higher mean, and the vast bulk should improve simply by virtue of where they are on the development curve and age relative to peak.

  67. The_Waco_Kid on October 11th, 2011 11:13 am
  68. nwade on October 11th, 2011 11:54 am

    One more thing that people tend to ignore when talking about hitting talent: Someone who’s good at hitting in general (has good ABs, makes contact, doesn’t swing at pitches outside the zone) makes the opposing pitcher work harder and get to a higher pitch-count more quickly.

    Bullpens are inevitably more volatile than SPs, and so the more often you can get to the opponent’s bullpen before the 7th/8th inning, the better your chances of being able to knock a bullpen pitcher around and put up a crooked number in a single inning.

    This “crooked number” is what I think a lot of dinger-proponents want, and admittedly home-runs can score you a lot of runs in only a few pitches – but you can’t rely on home runs coming at the right time every game. Teams that hit a lot of doubles and home-runs also tend to be teams with a lot of hitting talent in general, not just a couple of power bats.

    In any case, there are generally 2 ways to get a starting pitcher out of the game: Drive his pitch-count up or hit several doubles & homers off of him in quick succession. Which do you think is easier to achieve and more likely to happen?

  69. Westside guy on October 11th, 2011 11:59 am

    Give me the high OBP/doubles machine that Edgar was any day over a 30 HR/45 XBH, 150 K guy who grounds into 25 double plays every year, even if that guy does lead the team in dingers and RBI.

    Edgar’s career slugging percentage was .508, with an OBP of .418 – AND 309 career homers. What an awesome stud! A team of Edgars would score a boatload of runs… of course, they’d probably allow a boatload too, what with the bad knees and all. Watching Edgar attempt to field center would not be pretty. :-D

  70. mariner68 on October 11th, 2011 12:10 pm

    Out of curiosity, if you actually could send out a team of 9 Dave Kingmans (who somehow were able to field their positions), wouldn’t that at least be a better offense than Seattle’s? A team of 35 HR Dave Kingmans would hit around 315 home runs, easily besting the 97 M’s mark of 264, and would provide 2 home runs per game on average. Dave Kingman had a career OB% of around .305, wouldn’t a team of Dave Kingmans likely best the 2011 Mariners 3.43 runs per game, and finish above the bottom 1/3 for offense? 19 HR and a .250 OB% from Olivo is a far cry from Dave Kingman’s near .478 career slugging %. I think a team of guys hitting 35 HR with a .300 OB% might not be as terrible as you think.

  71. Pete Livengood on October 11th, 2011 1:41 pm

    Mariner68: Yes, I think 9 Kingmans would do better than the 2011 Mariners, but that kind of misses the point. Nobody is arguing that the 2011 Mariners “as is” is an adequate offense. We’re talking about what kind of hitters you target to maximize offense, and just because Kingman would be better than the 2011 Mariners doesn’t mean his is a model for the kind of player you want to pursue to accomplish that.

    I used Dave Kingman, because he was the first prototypical high HR, high K guy I thought of, but in many ways he is a poor proxy for the purposes of this argument (which is rooted in arguments between pro-Olivo and anti-Olivo camps in this thread) because he was also a moderately patient hitter. He had a career OBP-BA difference of .066. In contrast, both Olivo and Ichiro are at least 20 points worse than that (Olivo .036; Ichiro .044). It would be fairer to use somebody – I don’t know who this would be – who hit more home runs than Olivo did, but didn’t walk as much as Kingman did (closer to what Olivo himself does).

    In any event, the real question I posed was whether you would be better off offensively with a team full of high-contact, little power, no walk guys like Ichiro, or a guy like Kingman? Or the Edgar type I think is the ideal? RC/G attempts to answer that, and it isn’t particularly close:

    PLAYER RC/G
    Kingman 4.8
    Ichiro 6.3
    Olivo 3.8
    Edgar 8.3

    Obviously, the do-everything guy like Edgar, who was really known most for hard contact, walks and doubles, is the best. The more you take OBP out of the equation, the worse off you are, unless you add back in just a sh*tload of power (more than Kingman), and all things being equal, a guy who doesn’t walk but hits for average will be a better choice than a guy who doesn’t walk or hit for average, but hits for power. That is the power of OBP.

  72. Mathball on October 11th, 2011 1:44 pm

    If you do that, those players’ WAR/700 PA looks more like:

    Ackley 3.9
    Ryan 3.4
    Guti 1.7
    Olivo 1.6
    Wells 1.1*
    Carp 0.8
    Seager 0.9
    Smoak 0.7
    Ichiro 0.2

    It seems to me that a 10 WAR improvement with the current line up seems realistic. (I could see even higher with some ifs, but somethings won’t go our way either next year)

    So what is the cheapest way to get 15 more wins?

  73. stevie_j13 on October 11th, 2011 1:46 pm

    Dave picking guys like Chris Snyder as potential upgrades is why I like this blog – he seems like a great fit and his name never would have crossed my mind.

    I am interested to see if Philly might be willing to part with one or two cheap players for upgrades elsewhere. Specifically, John Mayberry, Jr. and Vance Worley. Worley might be cost prohibitive, but Mayberry has pop, is on ok defender according to UZR, and is right-handed. Some deal involving one or both for Brandon League, Erasmo Ramirez, and one of our outfielders (Casper Wells?) might do it. Would be interesting, anyway.

  74. KaminaAyato on October 11th, 2011 1:51 pm

    stevie, I don’t think that’s possible. Cliff Lee’s contract is going up by $10M next year, and they have a few players heading into FA during the off-season. If they plan on letting players walk, they prolly need to keep their low-cost players to fill in gaps.

  75. mariner68 on October 11th, 2011 2:05 pm

    Agreed Pete. Edgar was my favorite player for all the reasons you mentioned, and a typical Ichiro year bests a all or nothing slugger. I do feel that the randomness of power from a low BA Russell Branyan type does have some value, more than a team of .340OB%, .390SLG% kind of players, but it has to be 30+ HR with slugging around .500 to be of much use, I don’t think guys like Steve Balboni, Rob Deer, Gorman Thomas etc. were net positives – other than their best seasons. A season like Olivo had is really of little use, a .250 OB% guy who only hits 20-25 HR is likely getting them in garbage time with no men on base, not off of elite pitchers in key situtations.

  76. Chris_From_Bothell on October 11th, 2011 2:15 pm

    I think you need to look at WAR projected to 650 or 700 PA, or something close to that, and compare THAT to a similar projection for a an outside guy you’re looking at (and discount for injury-proneness or other PT issues on both sides if you need to).

    Good point, Pete. Your revised estimates still make me more comfortable with going out and getting incremental upgrades than I thought at the end of the season.

    Well, if one thinks that cheap yet reliable 1.5 – 2.0 WAR players are available at 2 or 3 positions – 3b, LF and DH especially… and that a solid #4 starter is available… and that at least one impact player is acquired somehow, pretty much at name-any-position-that-isn’t-2b.

    We’ve just seemed to be so burned by blue-light-special shopping in recent years, that it’s hard to imagine what actual, reliable, just-above-replacement-level players look like.

  77. stevie_j13 on October 11th, 2011 2:23 pm

    Kamina: League might be a low-cost option for them at closer, compared to what it would cost them to bring in a free agent (including their own guy), which is why the deal would be appealing for the Phillies on the budget side. Plus, Mayberry can’t be seen as long for Philadelphia with Domonic Brown waiting to take the third spot in the Pence/Victorino OF. That said, Worley is more of a pipe dream, especially if they let Oswalt go.

  78. Westside guy on October 11th, 2011 2:47 pm

    I do feel that the randomness of power from a low BA Russell Branyan type does have some value, more than a team of .340OB%, .390SLG% kind of players, but it has to be 30+ HR with slugging around .500 to be of much use

    Remember that while Branyan’s batting average was down somewhat near the “Olivo zone”, he was/is a career .329 OBP guy – quite a bit better than Miguel.

    And with the 2009 Mariners, Russell the Muscle put up a .251/.347/.520 line. If Miguel could perform like that, we’d all be loving him to death. I mean basically we’re talking about getting Miguel getting on base 1/4 of the time, while Branyan does so 1/3 of the time. That’d be significant even if Branyan didn’t have superior power. Over the course of a season that’s significantly fewer outs being made.

  79. philosofool on October 12th, 2011 9:38 am

    The other thing I would note is, obviously contact alone isn’t everything, and power (SLG) is important. But home runs aren’t the only way to be a productive power guy. Give me the high OBP/doubles machine that Edgar was any day over a 30 HR/45 XBH, 150 K guy who grounds into 25 double plays every year, even if that guy does lead the team in dingers and RBI.

    Not a single hitter has fit that description in the last fifty years. You can’t GDP 25 times and K 150 times because you don’t put enough balls into play. One of the benefits of Adam Dunn type hitters is that they don’t GDP. (On the whole, guys like that have high RE24, which tends to show that they mitigate their GDPs through other skills.)

    But this is all beside the point I want to make, which is that you should look at stats like wOBA or even OPS rather than a selection of counting stats that give an incomplete picture of a hitter. There’s no reason to talk about “types” of hitters (doubles OBP guys versus TTO sluggers) when you have a stat that commensurates these kinds of value.

    The only reason to talk about types of hitters is because maybe you think a particular type will be hurt by Safeco, so that his past performance won’t accurately predict him in a new environment (e.g., pull-power RHB with contact skills but lacking zone judgement is not a good safeco fit.)

  80. akampfer on October 12th, 2011 2:50 pm

    Or, they could just stop drafting pitchers with those high draft picks and get some offense.

  81. KaminaAyato on October 12th, 2011 3:31 pm

    @akampfer

    2009 Draft
    #2 – Dustin Ackley (2B)
    #27 – Nick Franklin (SS)
    #33 – Steve Baron (C)
    #51 – Rich Poythress (1B)
    #82 – Kyle Seager (2B)
    #113 – James Jones (LF)

    2010 Draft
    #43 – Taijuan Walker (P)
    #67 – Marcus Littlewood (SS)
    #99 – Ryne Stanek (P) – Went to Arkansas
    #132 – James Paxton (P)

    They don’t draft on need, they draft on best available. You get best available then if necessary trade for need.

  82. TumwaterMike on October 12th, 2011 10:51 pm

    Or, they could just stop drafting pitchers with those high draft picks and get some offense.

    If you were to trade them, a good pitcher usually gets more in return then a position player

  83. nwade on October 13th, 2011 2:45 pm

    KaminaAyato made the real point that needed to be made in response to @akampfer but there’s one more (secondary) point to be made: You have 5 Starting Pitchers and a 5-7 man bullpen. That’s about HALF of your 25-man roster! So of course you’re going to see a lot of Pitchers drafted. You need a lot of pitchers. If you fielded teams with 12 Shortstops instead, you’d see a lot more guys with “SS” after their name during the draft, too.

  84. tmac9311 on October 13th, 2011 3:39 pm

    Hey dave what about Victor Martinez? Not sure if he fits in the budget or the freely available players, but he seems to have become Detroit’s primary DH. Not sure how much he can actually play behind the plate anymore, but that’s where Olivo comes in. If we filled those holes on the cheap with Volstad/Pagan types could we afford a Martinez along with a Votto?

  85. KaminaAyato on October 13th, 2011 9:09 pm

    You have 5 Starting Pitchers and a 5-7 man bullpen. That’s about HALF of your 25-man roster! So of course you’re going to see a lot of Pitchers drafted.

    Kinda. When you look at the draft, you generally do not draft for a reliever. The saying that relievers are failed starters is for the most part true. Plus, relievers have been shown to generally be (a) fungible, and (b) volatile – really you’re drafting for SP.

    But because you’re looking for 5 starters and obviously not every SP drafted makes it, AND good young SP generally garners a premium in trades, that’s why you see P drafted.

    (But thanks for backing up my other point!)

  86. Pete Livengood on October 14th, 2011 5:18 pm

    philosofool wrote:

    “Not a single hitter has fit that description in the last fifty years. You can’t GDP 25 times and K 150 times because you don’t put enough balls into play.”

    The statistical example used was an extreme, used for illustrative purposes to make a point. I was reacting to those defending Olivo on the basis of HR and RBI, and saying you are going to win a lot more with guys who hit less HR but make more contact and get on base more frequently.

    BUT, there are guys that come pretty close to that kind of hitter. In 1997, Jay Buhner struck out 175 times and grounded into 23 double plays. The Bone was a productive hitter because he hit a lot more than 30 HR (40, to be precise), and he walked a lot (119 times), so even though he was a low contact .243 hitter, he was still a .889 OPS/.388 wOBA guy. Richie Sexson, in 2001, stuck out 178 times and grounded into 20 double plays, though also hit 45 home runs and even though he walked at only about half the rate 1997 Buhner did, he hit enough more doubles (+6) and triples (+1) than Buhner did that he also posted a .889 OPS and was a productive .370 wOBA guy (and the difference in their wOBA numbers speaks to the relatively higher value of OBP over SLG). Dick Stuart, in 1963, grounded into 24 double plays and struck out 144 times, with only 44 walks (though hit 42 HR and had 25 doubles and 4 triples, and was good for a .833 OPS and a .366 wOBA)

    Guys like this are rare, and probably aren’t given full time jobs unless they do at least one (probably power) if not two (power, walks) things well, but it is possible to strike out as many times and ground into double plays at or nearly at the rate I mentioned. But they are valued by some in baseball, and apparently some in this thread.

    So, while you are technically right, you missed the point of my example, and there clearly are players in the last 50 years who come close enough to the description to make you wrong, too.

    But I agree with your main point – wOBA, wRC+ and other advanced metrics do a much better job of describing whether a hitter (of whatever “type” as judged by more traditional component stats) is good enough at enough things to be a productive player. The only reason I didn’t use those stats was because (a) that had already been pointed out, and (b) the pro-Olivo crowd is not inclined to be moved by those stats – hence, the discussion of the “disparagement” of “dingers.” For the purpose of this discussion, I thought it best to stay on their turf, and the extreme example I used was designed to illustrate my point.

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