Batting Order Shake-Up On The Way

Dave · January 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Eric Wedge hinted at this towards the end of last season, but tonight he made his most declarative statement on the issue, telling Mike Salk on ESPN 710 that he was “leaning in (the) direction” of moving Ichiro out of the leadoff spot. People have been talking about shifting Ichiro to the third spot in the order for years, and it seems like his poor performance in 2011 has given Wedge a reason to try something new.

This is going to be a big story among the mainstream fan base, and will get plenty of coverage in Spring Training, but the reality is that every study ever done on the issue comes to the same conclusion – batting order just doesn’t really matter all that much. You want your best guys at the top of the line-up and the worst guys at the bottom in order to allocate the maximum amount of at-bats to your most productive players, but in terms of producing runs, the exact order isn’t a big deal. Hit the pitcher cleanup? Yeah, that’s bad. Stick your 50 homer guy in the leadoff spot? Not smart. Beyond that, most alignments are going to produce similar results. You can get small advantages by splitting up lefties and righties to reduce late game match-up advantages and the like, but as long as you get the good guys up top and the bad guys down at the bottom, you’ve done most of the hard work.

But, just for fun, let’s work with the current roster and try to predict how the line-up arrangements might go, given the options Wedge presently has to work with. And, since the whole point of this post is that Ichiro is probably not hitting first, we’ll only deal with scenarios where that’s the case. Let’s go position by position:

#1 vs RHP

This is a pretty easy call – Dustin Ackley. Wedge mentioned specifically that he wanted fewer “quick outs” at the top of the order, and Ackley’s by far the most patient hitter on the team. He also looks like a prototypical leadoff guy, runs well, makes contact, and doesn’t have so much power that he’d be wasted batting with the bases empty on a frequent basis. The only other guy I could see even in contention for this would be Chone Figgins, if he somehow wrestled the starting third base job back from Kyle Seager. I’d call that unlikely, though, so we can probably pencil Ackley in here.

#1 vs LHP

This might very well be Figgins. He’s probably going to play a decent amount against lefties, and this way Wedge could give him most of his starts in the leadoff spot, hoping that putting him back there would somehow help him find his offensive groove. They could stay with Ackley if they wanted daily continuity at the top of the order, but if Figgins is on the roster, I’d bet on him getting this spot against southpaws.

#2 vs RHP

The traditional line-up arrangement says you want a high contact guy in this spot, which enables the manager to hit and run or lay down bunts in order to get the guy into scoring position for the big guns. The traditions are wrong, though, and giving the second spot in the order to a bad hitter with bat control is a waste of the spot where the data suggests you want your best hitter. If the M’s were throwing tradition away and going with a data-based approach to line-up construction, this spot should go to Justin Smoak, who would provide another patient bat at the top of the order and the versatility of a switch-hitter behind Ackley. Since they’re probably not ready to do that, though, bet on Ichiro landing here – he is the classic #2 hitter, and dropping him just one spot won’t cause too much of a ruckus.

#2 vs LHP

Again, throwing away traditions means you probably leave Smoak here, but that’s still not likely. Ichiro is the continuity pick, but if Franklin Gutierrez is healthy and gets his power stroke back, he could also be an option here. He’s hit lefties well and takes a decent amount of pitches, but I don’t think the team can really push him this high up in the order until they see evidence that he’s definitively over his physical issues. So, pencil Ichiro in here for now.

#3 vs RHP

Of the top four spots in the batting order, this is actually the least important, despite what a normal line-up arrangement looks like. The reason? No one hits with the bases empty and two outs more often than the #3 hitter, so a decent amount of his hits and walks end up simply delaying the end of an inning rather than resulting in a rally. That doesn’t mean you want Brendan Ryan hitting here, but it’s not as important a position as is usually assumed. If the team was willing to go Ackley-Smoak in the top two spots, then this wouldn’t be a bad spot for Ichiro. Those two out/bases empty situations could result in single + SB attempt, giving him more opportunities to run while lowering the cost of getting thrown out. And, let’s be honest, there’s no way Wedge is moving Ichiro any lower than this without causing an international incident. If Smoak was #2, Ichiro would fit in nicely at #3, but they’ll probably go the more traditional route, so this spot could go to any of Smoak, Montero, or Carp. Carp probably makes the least sense behind Ackley-Ichiro, since that would line you up with three LHBs in a row. And #3 for a rookie seems like something Wedge might not want to do, so Smoak’s probably the favorite.

#3 vs LHP

This starts to get a little interesting. If I’m right and it’s Figgins-Ichiro in the top two spots, then you’ve got Ackley, Smoak, Montero, and one of Carp/Wells/Olivo, depending on who is playing where on a particular day. Wedge showed that he had no problems hitting Olivo high in the order last year, and he’s traditionally hit lefties okay, so he’d be the choice if they wanted to ease the pressure on the young kids. But he’s also the worst hitter of the bunch and probably belongs lower in the order, so we’ll rule him out for now. If Smoak’s hitting third against righties, just leaving him there against lefties has some appeal so he can know where he’s hitting everyday, so he’s probably the favorite here. But Montero’s probably the right-handed bat with the most thunder, and Ackley’s the best hitter on the team, so either one could also fit in here. If Smoak is hitting well in April, he probably gets this spot to himself. If he doesn’t, expect a rotation.

#4 vs RHP

Personally, I think this is one of the easiest spots to predict Wedge’s decision in the entire line-up – Mike Carp will hit here when he plays. Montero and Smoak are the only other options, but Wedge has talked about how he thought Smoak struggled adjusting to the pressures of that role last year, and he won’t want to do that to Montero at such a young age either. Carp’s a little older and has a little more experience, so he’ll get this job.

#4 vs LHP

This is basically the same discussion as the #3 spot, just minus Ackley, who no manager would be willing to hit clean-up for fear of mockery. If it’s Figgins-Ichiro-Smoak at the top of the order, then you’re probably looking at Carp/Wells, Olivo, or possibly Montero. Carp’s the continuity pick if they decide not to platoon him, Olivo’s the veteran pick, and Montero’s the best-right-handed-bat-on-the-team pick. I’d go with Montero, but I’d bet on Wedge going with either Carp or Olivo. Carp hit lefties well enough that they might not sit him against southpaws this year, but it’d be a bit of a shame to sit Wells in favor of a bad defensive LH hitter against LHPs, so let’s hope that reason wins out. Of course, I just argued that reason would lead to Olivo hitting cleanup for us again. Have I mentioned that I think this team could use a right-handed hitting third baseman with power?

#5 vs RHP

It’s Montero, with the alignment ahead of him having little to no bearing on this spot. It’s high enough that he can still provide the promised boost to the offense, but low enough so that they can say they’re not putting too much pressure on him right away. Besides, if Carp’s hitting clean-up, it gives you the L/R breakup, which managers always look for. This one’s easy.

#5 vs LHP

Still easy, still Montero. If they decided to hit him third or fourth against southpaws, then this spot probably goes to Olivo. But bet on Montero.

#6 vs RHP

The top five hitters on this team versus right-handed pitchers are pretty easy to pick out, and will almost certainly hit 1-5 in some order. Here, it becomes a little more tossing of the darts. Kyle Seager and John Jaso both provide left-handed bats, which keeps the L/R/L thing going, but neither have the power a manager generally looks for in this spot. Gutierrez has shown more power than either before, but again, health is a question and he’s never hit righties all that well. On days when Casper Wells is playing center field, I’d bet on him here, but the M’s don’t want that to be a regular occurrence. So, by default, it’s Seager – more power than Jaso, more left-handed than Guti.

#6 vs LHP

If Wells is playing, pencil him in here. If he’s not, that means Carp is in the line-up and potentially hitting fourth, so this would be a potential spot for Olivo. And, of course, the current guesses have the top five going Figgins-Ichiro-Smoak-Carp/Olivo-Montero, so Ackley’s still got to fit in somewhere, and you probably don’t want the team’s best hitter batting much lower than this, even against a same-handed pitcher. Still, I’d think this spot will go to the second of the Carp/Wells/Olivo trio that is in the line-up that day. One of them will hit clean-up, one will hit here.

#7 vs RHP

The logical landing spot for Gutierrez. Putting him between Seager and Jaso breaks up the left-handed bats at the bottom of the order, and there’s enough hope that his power might return to think that he could be a decent option here.

#7 vs LHP

Ackley can’t hit lower than this. That he’s even being considered to hit this low is a problem. But, then again, Guti has historically hit lefties well, and would be the team’s regular #7 hitter, so continuity would argue for him here. I can’t believe I’m going to project Ackley as the #8 hitter against lefties, but slight nod to Guti here. Ugh.

#8 vs RHP

Jaso if he’s catching. If he’s not, Olivo might get moved up to #7 and Guti could hit here. But Jaso probably gets the most at-bats here.

#8 vs LHP

I’m sorry, Dustin. I can’t explain it either. It just shook out this way.

#9 vs RHP

Brendan Ryan, come on down. You’re the worst hitter on the team, so you hit last. I’m sure you’re used to it by now.

#9 vs LHP

Yup, still the worst hitter on the team. The only chance for him to rise from purgatory is if they decided to leave Ackley as the full-time leadoff guy, and then put Figgins in this spot in order to have the “back to back leadoff hitters” thing that managers like to talk about. In reality, it’s just a fancy way of saying that your worst hitter is also fast.

So, that leaves us with the following projections:


1. Ackley, 2B
2. Ichiro, RF
3. Smoak, 1B
4. Carp, LF
5. Montero, DH
6. Seager, 3B
7. Gutierrez, CF
8. Jaso, C
9. Ryan, SS


1. Figgins, 3B
2. Ichiro, RF
3. Smoak, 1B
4. Olivo, C or Carp, LF
5. Montero, DH
6. Wells, LF or Olivo, C
7. Gutierrez, CF
8. Ackley, 2B
9. Ryan, SS

I would say I have a decent amount of confidence that the current roster would produce an opening day line-up that looked something like that. I don’t see Wedge throwing out tradition to put Smoak in the #2 spot, and while they could try something like Seager at #2 and Ichiro at #3, with Smoak and Montero sliding back in the order slightly, I don’t think the M’s will want to try and show off their revamped offense by going 1-2-3 with hitters who are all limited power threats.

Against lefties, it’s a bit more up in the air. There’s a good chance Figgins isn’t even on this team when the season starts, which would allow Ackley to move back to the leadoff spot, but if he’s here, I think the team may try to give him at-bats at the top of the order to try and re-energize him. But, as you can see, that decision would have some repercussions. My guess is that this is an issue Wedge won’t ever have to manage around, but for now, it’d be a bit of a sticky situation. They could just tell Figgins to get over his desire to hit leadoff and put him at the bottom of the order, of course, but with Ichiro being displaced, Figgins would likely feel like he should be next in line for the job, given his track record. I know that how he feels doesn’t matter to most of us, but it will likely matter to Eric Wedge, especially if the whole point of keeping him is to try and get him to play well so he might re-gain some trade value and make dumping him easier. It’s a lot easier to sell Figgins as an interesting piece to another team if he’s hitting .300 and you can argue that he just needed to be back in the leadoff spot this whole time.

Ideally, I’d still rather see the team dump Figgins and get a better right-handed third baseman to take those at-bats, but as we’ve talked about, there aren’t a lot of options out there with that skillset. I’d imagine Jack is working the phones trying to find a guy who could be an option, but if he can’t, this might be the line-up versus lefties we’d say in 2012.


77 Responses to “Batting Order Shake-Up On The Way”

  1. wes45 on January 26th, 2012 6:18 pm

    I would actually be in favor of giving figgins a shot at leadoff–not because he has earned it or we “have to” but as a last ditch effort to recover value. Not to nitpick but he isn’t a sunk cost. A sunk cost infers no possibility of cost recovery which isn’t the case. If his entire salary had been paid as a signing bonus then he would be a sunk cost. Can we change that we signed him to a 4 year, 36M contract? No. Can we still conceptually — however unlikely–recover value via trade? Yes. Interestingly, it might behoove ichiro to bat 2nd given his propensity for left side dribblers. A good base stealer could have the ss vacating that hole.

  2. bfgboy on January 26th, 2012 6:38 pm

    Dave, I am not trying to pick a fight with you as I thoroughly respect your insights on all things Mariners, and to an even larger degree in all things baseball. That being said, you are now putting words in my mouth. I stated that much of what we post on here is speculation; not once did I say “baseless” speculation. There is a huge divide in between those two, and you know as much. For example, stating that the Mariners should acquire Mark Reynolds is speculation based on your part, correct? I agree with your assessment, but in the end is not that still speculation? Baseless speculation would be stating that the Mariners have pieces that the Orioles like, and we should therefore make the deal. We have no knowledge of what they like or what they do not like, therefore that would be baseless speculation. There is a huge difference there.

    In regards to my hypothesis about Figgins, what does hypothesis mean? Once again, by definition, everything that I stated about Figgins is hypothetically true. If you look at his statistical information (what other means do we have to analyze), it paints a fairly clear picture that states that he has performed much better, statistically, when he was batting in the lead-off spot than when we was batting in other positions in the line-up. Sure there are a wealth of other factors that come into play here, but hypothetically speaking, I am not far off. And as far as what I said about him performing in the lead-off spot for the Mariners, there too I stated he had only played while batting lead-off “for a few games.”

    And yes, I will wholeheartedly agree that I do not have knowledge about how many teams make decisions. I would hope that they have a great deal more knowledge about those aspects of the game, as that is their job, much in the same way it is your job to comment on the potential decisions, and their effects. Once again, I am speculating, as that is what most people do on comments sections of these posts. I enjoy reading what others have to say, and I am sure each of the other participants do as well.

    Lastly, to the previous post, unless I am mistaken and feel free to correct me if I am, a “sunk cost” is the revenue lost on a previous investment that can never be regained. If Figgins is released with two years left on his contract, and that money is paid to him without any performance, does that investment not become a “sunk cost”?

  3. bfgboy on January 26th, 2012 6:43 pm

    Wes45, if you read my initial post, the intent was that the money that would be paid to him in the event of a release would be a “sunk cost.” In any case, that last part of the post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, hence the “C’mon, that would never happen…”

  4. stevemotivateir on January 26th, 2012 6:52 pm

    There’s no guarantee Figgins will be here opening day. The one thing I think everyone here can agree on, is that the first two years of his contract has been a disappointment.

  5. MrZDevotee on January 26th, 2012 8:17 pm

    CBSsports is reporting, in part from Larry Stone, that Wedge has indicated that Ackley, Figgins and Guty are the other candidates to lead off. He also said he (directly quoted in Stone’s article, about the Spring Training luncheon with press) that he was leaning in that direction (moving Ichiro) and it had as much to do with the other 8 guys as it did with Ichiro.

    We have no guarantee Figgins will be on the opening day roster– but I do believe he’ll be given every chance to perform up to his contract one last time, based on the statement at the luncheon, and the fact that he was one of the “key players” invited to the workout earlier this month that also included spending time at Wedge’s house on Mercer Island (this was when the reports surfaced that Guty had gained 20 pounds and Smoak had lowered his body fat, a result of intensifying his conditioning).

  6. BackRub on January 26th, 2012 8:45 pm

    bgfboy- 1) You can’t compare Figgins stats leading off to his stats hitting in other line-up positions because his lead-off stats are from pre-2010, and its fairy clear that Figgins is not the same player now as he was then. Since he hasn’t been a lead-off hitter after 2010, his stats are skewed.
    2) Performance is essentially not changed by where a hitter hits in the batting order – In fact, this study showed a small disadvantage for batting leadoff, which would make sense for a number of reasons-pitcher is not tired, less info on the pitcher, etc. The narrative used by baseball media, announcers, coaches, and some “analysts” about a player performing differently because of his batting order is a fantasy.

  7. the tourist on January 26th, 2012 9:19 pm

    I’ll try my hand at a Mariners lineup without looking into the stats and optimization.

    vs RHP:

    Ackley (2B)
    Seager (3B)
    Ichiro (RF)
    Montero (DH)
    Smoak (1B)
    Carp (LF)
    Gutierrez (CF)
    Ryan (SS)
    Jaso (C)

    vs LHP:

    Ackley (2B)
    Gutierrez (CF)
    Ichiro (RF)
    Montero (C)
    Smoak (1B/DH)
    Wells (LF)
    Carp (DH/1B)
    Ryan (SS)
    Figgins (3B)

  8. eponymous coward on January 26th, 2012 9:27 pm

    Lastly, to the previous post, unless I am mistaken and feel free to correct me if I am, a “sunk cost” is the revenue lost on a previous investment that can never be regained. If Figgins is released with two years left on his contract, and that money is paid to him without any performance, does that investment not become a “sunk cost”?


    The money that will be paid to Figgins is the sunk cost, not the decision of how to use him in 2012 (or whether or not to dump him). The point is that that money is committed whether or not Figgins plays another game in a Mariner uniform.

    As the Wikipedia article helpfully points out, once you have a sunk cost, decisions that you make after the sunk cost, like “OK, Leonard Part 6 sucks, I’m watching it in the theatre because I paid money, do I want to keep watching it or leave?”, or “Well, Kyle Seager played pretty well for a lot of 2011, and Chone Figgins has been terrible for two years, do I want to keep playing Figgins and let Seager rot on the bench, just because we’re paying Figgins 10 million the next two years?” need to be evaluated without reference to the sunk cost, otherwise you’re not being rational in the decision and are likely to engage in fallacies like loss aversion.

    Given what I’ve seen of Seager in 2011 and what he’s likely to contribute going forward, and even giving Figgins some bounce back, there’s no reason to be playing Figgins over him, other than the usual things we see written during spring training. If you give the best case for Figgins, that’s probably about the best case for Seager (a 1.5-2 WAR player), except Seager is both younger and coming off a year with reasonable success (as opposed to being a veteran on the wrong side of 30), plus Seager can likely cover 2B and even fill in at SS (though not very well at SS, but better than Figgins, who was a bad 2B in 2010).

    There’s just no reason to prefer Figgins to Seager other than ‘he’s got veteran grit and hustle and we’re paying him $10 million’. You can use both on the roster as it’s currently constructed, but installing Figgins in leadoff for 650 PAs at 3rd, and telling Seager to go to Tacoma and working his spelling, or get 200 PAs as the 2012 Willie Bloomquist? Ack.

  9. lalo on January 26th, 2012 9:46 pm

    VS RHP

    Figgins (3B)
    Ackley (2B)
    Ichiro (RF)
    Smoak (1B)
    Montero (DH/C)
    Carp (LF)
    Guti (CF)
    Jaso (C)
    Ryan (SS)

    VS LHP

    Figgins (3B)
    Guti (CF)
    Ichiro (RF)
    Smoak (1B)
    Montero (DH/C)
    Ackley (2B)
    Wells (CF)
    Olivo (C)
    Ryan (SS)

  10. MrZDevotee on January 26th, 2012 10:56 pm

    I agree with everything you said (re: sunk costs, Figgins and Seager), but unfortunately, I still think they’re gonna give Chone however brief a shot again (not necessarily to bat leadoff, but SOME sort of shot)… I don’t like it, but there are signs it’s likely to happen.

    There’s no accounting for taste. People who buy Land Rovers, and soon realize they’ve wasted a LOT of money on something that isn’t living up to what they thought it would be… Well, as long as they can get it to start, and grind it into gear, those people will usually still keep driving it, even if their son’s Toyota 4Runner is right there next to it in the driveway, perking right along and running rain or shine, providing better value and spending way less time on “injured reserve”.

    Unless they wreck it in an accident (see: “Bradley”) it’s just too hard for most folks to admit you wasted a ton of money on a piece of junk and to move on.

    Figgins will be parked on the lawn a few more months, most likely, with that “wishful thinking” For Sale sign on his windshield… And we’ll start him up every once in awhile to let him leak oil and blow blue smoke out his exhaust.

  11. eponymous coward on January 27th, 2012 6:25 am

    I read this:

    The Mariners can’t complain too much, mind you. They consciously chose this route, chose not to invest their money in established veterans that might have eased, or hastened, the transition, adding experience only in the form of ancillary pieces like George Sherrill or reclamation projects like Kevin Millwood.

    It’s no coincidence that their flashiest winter move was to acquire Montero, a 22-year-old phenom catcher, not Prince Fielder, a $200 million superstar. And it’s no surprise that any pending moves between now and the opening of camp in less than three weeks “will probably be a little chip,” according to Zduriencik. “I don’t think it will be anything earth-shattering.”

    Zduriencik said they’re waiting for the right time to strike, at which point he’s confident that ownership will pay for the pieces to put them over the top. In the meantime, they just hope that their fans can come around to believe in this team’s future like he does, as fervently as Wedge does.

    … as a basic admission that the salary budget was cut for 2012.

    Ouch. This is a ~75 win team that’s a bit thin in the rotation and bullpen, as well as having major question marks at a number of positions.

    It really does look like the strategy is to be Oakland North here- not terrible, but salary constrained enough that you can’t optimize the roster with a major FA signing.

  12. Mariners35 on January 27th, 2012 8:29 am

    Eponymous – Who should this mystery mythical extra bonus money been spent on? I have been railing against the M’s blue light special shopping for years, but I like who they’ve spent on this offseason. Most other opportunities needed way too much monopoly money to be worth it. Play the kids!

  13. Mariners35 on January 27th, 2012 8:32 am

    MrZD: I doubt Figgins is getting possible playing time due to pride, as you’re alluding to. They genuinely think he has something left to contribute. I don’t think they would run him out there because they don’t want to admit his Mariner time has been a disasterous surprise.

  14. eponymous coward on January 27th, 2012 11:05 am

    Eponymous – Who should this mystery mythical extra bonus money been spent on?

    Roy Oswalt. Edwin Jackson. Package money+Figgins+low-level prospect for Reynolds. Any number of things.

    Play the kids!

    The kids are not that good. This is a ~75 win team with major holes on the roster. If we’re passing up opportunities to upgrade the roster based on financial restraints, there’s no real way to spin this as a positive move- we’re doing what Billy Beane does and just trying not to put a miserable team on the field while being cheap, doing creative things mixed with scavenging on Large Item Pickup Day.

    You might note that while the A’s haven’t been horrible the last few years, they haven’t actually been, well, good. Just making smart moves with financial limits doesn’t transform your team into a contender.

    To put this another way, if we’re really pinching pennies and cutting payroll for 2012 because 2011 was such a disaster (and effectively taking a pass on improving the 2012 roster with any more FA signings, and wishing/hoping for kids to outperform projections), the odds that Felix is in a different uniform in 2013 are significantly raised, I think (compared to a scenario where we can keep payroll at 2011 levels), because a 75 win team doesn’t have to be too unlucky to win 69, be terrible for long stretches of the year, and that will crater attendance yet again, which means 2013 could end up with reduced payroll- and one way to do that and improve the team going forward (instead of just dumping Ichiro and replacing him with nothing) would be to trade Felix for a bucket of cheap young prospects.

  15. Johnny Slick on January 27th, 2012 11:10 am

    Not at all like Oakland, I don’t think. More like the Twins of a few years ago or the Rays from around the same time. The team is not good and it’s simply not cost effective for anyone to buy their way into contention from this deep of a hole.

  16. eponymous coward on January 27th, 2012 12:05 pm

    The team is not good and it’s simply not cost effective for anyone to buy their way into contention from this deep of a hole.

    If your argument is “there’s no point in spending 5-10 million on Roy Oswalt to improve the 2012 Mariners”, what’s the point in spending 10 million on League and Vargas? What’s the point of keeping Felix instead of trading him? Why not go the full Florida Marlin route and dump anyone making more than 53 cents over MLB minimums?

  17. Johnny Slick on January 27th, 2012 12:19 pm

    Because unlike Oswalt all of those guys/are likely to be here in 2 years? FWIW I wouldn’t object to an Oswalt or Jackson signing either. I can also understand Z wanting to figure out where the holes are before he fills them.

  18. raul_podzednick on January 27th, 2012 12:51 pm

    I hate to be negative but the second you saw Ackley at 8th you should have torn it up and started over.

    I have been wanting Ichiro to move out of the lead off spot for years. Now though I am not sure who you replace him with. This is of course assuming Seager is your regular 3B. I think Montero is cocky enough to step right into the clean up spot and talented enough to back it up. Smoak seems to be most comfortable 5th.


  19. tangotiger on January 27th, 2012 1:57 pm

    If you go to my blog, click the top-left corner to get into Amazon, you can read the batting order chapter for free, via Amazon’s Look Inside.

    Just do a search for
    batting order
    and that should get you started.

  20. akampfer on January 27th, 2012 8:30 pm

    Move Ichiro down the batting order? What an interesting idea. I’ve only been saying this for the last 18 months and I know I’ve posted it here before. Try Fighins as lead off and put Ichiro number three. Take advantage of the one bat you know you have.

  21. eponymous coward on January 28th, 2012 10:25 am

    I can also understand Z wanting to figure out where the holes are before he fills them.

    It isn’t that hard to figure out where the holes are on the roster. A rotation with two proven reliable MLB starters (one of whom is a #3-4) and an assortment of unproven kids, Large Item Pickup Day (Millwood), and someone from Japan coming off an injury (Iwakuma)? Not good enough. The bullpen from last year + Sherrill? Not good enough. OF and 3B? Not good enough.

    The fact that GMZ has run out of dollars to address these problems, and is left with a roster that’s basically what Oakland’s been putting on the field the last five years (not enough offense, enough pitching and defense to not be terrible) isn’t something you can spin as a good thing, no matter how you can try. I know Geoff Baker’s reviled here, and justly so, but there’s a point he makes that is valid; if there are moves you can make to improve the team, but you’re holding back because of finances, it’s not a good thing for the fanbase. Toronto has spent a decade plus not being terrible, but not being good, in part because they;’ve decided there’s no ability to spend. This isn’t a place where you want your franchise to be, and it’s not good news if the M’s have settled for that. Better hope that our farm system really does start producing in quantity soon, because mediocrity and profitability as opposed to terrible and losing money isn’t going to be all that fun, either.

  22. Johnny Slick on January 28th, 2012 1:38 pm

    Are you sure about the rotation being a hole? Right now the team has, as you’ve noted, 2 starters, 2 highly rated prospects who are probably close, Iwakuma, 2 more minor league/NRI types, and several #5/LR type guys in AAA. Given that this team is looking for answers for 2013 or 2014 moreso than 2012, is that *really* “not good enough”? Likewise, you can put together a bullpen on demand once you need to. Z did this in 2009 and 2010.

    I agree that being mediocre isn’t a great place to be in. It’s a much better place to be in than “bad”, however, and it’s also a better place to be in than “mediocre but also expensive” which at this point is all spending another $15-20M for 3-4 more wins is going to give you.

    Again, I am not saying that the optimum strategy is necessarily to wait out the year. I am saying that it is *a* viable strategy and has at least as many advantages as making a small splurge on the FA market this year would.

  23. eponymous coward on January 28th, 2012 4:30 pm

    2 highly rated prospects who are probably close

    I don’t think Walker and Paxton should be counted on for 2013 yet. Maybe they’ll do what Pineda did in 2010 in 2012, but let’s wait and see what they do first.

    I agree that being mediocre isn’t a great place to be in. It’s a much better place to be in than “bad”, however

    A 75 win true talent team is by no means guaranteed to win 75. There’s significant downside risk that they won’t be mediocre; that they’ll in fact be not a lot different than last year, and looking at having to cut payroll in 2013 from 2012, because attendance is even worse in 2012 than 2011 (we’ve already gone back to the early 1990’s in attendance levels). There’s a substantial difference in adding some marginal wins (including the chance that you get lucky and actually contend- remember, attendance is a trailing indicator of team quality).

    Also, I don’t buy the idea that throwing away a year is really advantageous for years down the road. The future is too unknowable.


    it’s also a better place to be in than “mediocre but also expensive” which at this point is all spending another $15-20M for 3-4 more wins is going to give you

    This basically describes what it is costing us in real terms to have Felix on the roster in 2012. We could easily cash him in for something that would reduce talent on the roster in 2012 to the tune of 3-4 wins, but would save us 15-20 million in 2012, and would leave us in decent position for 2013-2014 and later. I also think it’s fairly likely that come October 2014, if Felix is still a Mariner, he’s going to be offered too much money to stay here, by a team that actually has sniffed the playoffs during his career (and banking on the Mariners making the playoffs in 2013-2014 is pushing us into a very small window). I don’t see why there’s a hometown discount at play.

    So, if you’re going for a Florida Marlins approach to a season, why do it halfway? What is the logic to having having players making big paychecks if you can cash them in for talent, if you’re not actually going to surround them with reasonable free agent acquisitions? (Ichiro, Guti and Figgins are all untradeable at this point without shelling out serious cash, but Felix most certainly isn’t.)

  24. eponymous coward on January 28th, 2012 4:51 pm

    One other thing:

    This team is basically dropping 20 million off the payroll in 2012.

    The good news is Arizona made a playoff appearance with a similar payroll last year. The bad news is this: payroll is highly positively correlated with team quality (meaning that only Arizona and Tampa did this, as opposed to the top of the league)… and Arizona’s payroll hasn’t been cut 20 million a year from where it was in 2009. In fact, our payroll in 2012 isn’t that far from where Oakland’s was last year… and they have a smart GM.

  25. G-Man on January 29th, 2012 8:30 pm

    Within trying to argue the definition of sunk cost, I’ll just say that Figgins MIGHT perform better than he did last year, and I think the chance improves if he’s given a shot at leadoff. So do it. If he does well enough that he regains some value and can be traded for a bag of balls or claimed off waivers, that’s a gain for the M’s. If he doesn’t do well enough, let him be a super utility guy, and if he totally stinks, DFA him and that’s the end of it.

  26. eponymous coward on January 29th, 2012 11:57 pm

    Making Figgins a full time leadoff guy basically turns Kyle Seager into Willie Bloomquist- 200 PAs filling in at 3B or 2B (I’m not sold on Seager at SS compared to Kawasaki).

    Kyle Seager is way better than Willie Bloomquist. There’s a good case to be made that he’s better than Chone Figgins, given their respective play in 2010-2011. It’s dumb to play the worse player more than the better player just because you’re paying the worse player $10 million.

  27. goat on January 31st, 2012 12:13 pm

    I think most of the talk of moving Ichiro off leadoff probably has to do with Figgins. Maybe they actually do it, maybe they just talk about it so that Figgins is motivated when he comes to spring training and there’s a better chance of trading him in a way that doesn’t involve paying all of the money he is still owed.

    Anyways, perhaps more pertinent regarding Ichiro is that he seemed to improve a bit last year when he was getting a day at DH every so often. It might be a good idea for the M’s to have Ichiro DHing almost as frequently as Montero is catching.

    Maybe it would have been more appropriate to post this is in the playing time thread, but I couldn’t log in after my first comment for some reason, and then it got locked.

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