Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose

Dave · November 19, 2012 at 10:52 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I try to limit my posts that are just links to my other posts, but this one pertains to the Mariners off-season plans, so it’s relevant here too, I think.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose

I hope you read the whole thing. If you don’t, though, here are the final two paragraphs that basically sum up my thoughts on the rebuilding process, and why I’ve been continually advocating for the team to make improvements to their roster rather than just sitting around and waiting for their prospects to develop.

There’s too much variation in baseball for teams to simply accept their most recent record as evidence of their short term future. There’s too many things that simply can’t be projected — and too much uncertainty around the things we do know — for more than one or two teams per year to simply punt the entire season and lose on purpose. Trading from the present to improve the future is one thing; trading from the present simply because we see no future is another thing entirely, and requires a level of certainty in forecasting that we simply don’t have.

If our forecast for a team is 65 to 90 wins, then making smart moves to improve the roster and increase the likelihood of getting towards that 90 win part of the bell curve could very well be a better move for the future of the franchise than blowing up the roster and accepting the ramifications of a 65 win season. Rebuilding can be the right path to take, especially if you get the kind of offer for your veterans that can inject a real talent boost into the organization. Just dumping good players because there’s no point in having veterans on a team with a mean forecast of 78 wins, though? That’s just putting too much faith in what we know. If we’re going to stress honesty, let’s honestly admit that we don’t know enough to suggest that a 78 win team should give up hope and lose on purpose.

If the M’s bring in some veterans this winter, I know there’s going to be a group of people who complain that they’re just “blocking the kids” and so forth. A decent amount of you guys complained about signing guys like Kevin Millwood last year. I get that there’s a pretty good sized crop of fans who think that a team should either be going for it or going young, and everything in between is just a waste of time.

I just think that mentality is completely wrong. There’s a real value in putting wins on the board, even if they may very well not be the wins that put the team in the playoffs. The Mariners shouldn’t look at their 2013 roster and decide that it’s not good enough to make real improvements. They should look at their 2013 roster and decide that it’s not good enough, so they should make real improvements.


16 Responses to “Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose”

  1. maqman on November 19th, 2012 11:20 am

    You won’t get any argument from me – and I hope any M’s fan.

  2. bookbook on November 19th, 2012 11:52 am

    I agree much more strongly for 2013 than I did for 2012. This team needs veteran OF help and probably a backend rotation guy. Last year I don’t think they knew what they might need nearly as clearly.

  3. californiamariner on November 19th, 2012 12:13 pm

    It has always made me go crazy to hear Mariners fans proclaiming “we will try to win in a couple of years.” NO! Have you followed baseball your whole life? There are countless stories of teams that nobody expected to be any good that went on to make runs at a championship. One year it will be us. Baseball is a funny game where the worst team in the league can beat the best team in the league 4 games out of 7. Can’t say that about many sports.

  4. MrZDevotee on November 19th, 2012 1:22 pm

    Plus, baseball is so unpredictable (as much as we enjoy advanced stats)– you never actually know when “the chance” to win it all is coming.

    Raise your hand if you had Marco Scutaro as the Series winning RBI hitter when the Giants brought him in mid season?

    Raise your hand if you had the Giants winning it all when Melky Cabrera got suspended?

    Raise your hand if you thought the A’s had enough offense to make the playoffs?

    Raise your hand if you thought the A’s could make the playoffs after Bartolo Colon got suspended and they started 5 rookies in their rotation the last few weeks?

    When the variance of success in a sport is basically 1/4 (.250) to 1/3 (.333) at the individual level (on offense), the math of who can help and when becomes tricky to predict when you throw 25 variables (players) into the equation.

    That’s why I’ve always supported Z’s attitude, which he has consistently said is “to make the team better, every chance we can, when it makes sense.”

    You try to increase the baseline of talent to the highest point you can maintain, with your “regulars”, and then try to create the circumstances where a few guys getting hot can have the biggest effect on the outcomes. Then maybe pick up a couple of “big ticket” items, and ride the waves when they come.

    That’s baseball.

    I mean, the Mariners best season in recent years was a “throwaway” year, where Ichiro was hurt the first month, and Endy Chavez was our offensive hero for a month.

    You just never know.

    (I’m still quietly optimistic of what the new fence-lines might mean to this team… because it still boggles my mind that we were 8th in runs scored on the road last season, in ALL of baseball, ahead of the Rangers and Cardinals… And dead last at home… While being 2nd in runs allowed as a pitching staff. If we could be even 12th-14th in runs scored, while 4th or 5th in runs allowed, that’s a HELLUVA chance to do well.)

  5. thurston24 on November 19th, 2012 1:48 pm

    I think the Mariners have a really good chance next year already if things break right. Seager can handle himself at third well, Montero was improving and should be helped by the changes in the field dimensions, Ackley should hit better next year, and Saunders will probably play better too. Add in that Zunino may be big league ready soon and that at least Hultzen or Paxton should show up sometime next season and it looks pretty good. Now, the need to add an outfielder or two (Swisher and/or Pagan please) and they may be pretty competitive. They aren’t garunteed to make the playoffs but have a decent chance if the young guys progress. Get a couple of three to five WAR players and Seattle has a good shot next year.

  6. henryv on November 19th, 2012 2:37 pm

    “Fortunately” the M’s don’t have many hitters to “block”. :)… no, wait, >:(

  7. MrZDevotee on November 19th, 2012 3:04 pm


    RE: Zunino…

    3-5 in the AFL Championship game, knocking in 2 of Peoria’s 4 runs to help get the win.

  8. globalalpha on November 19th, 2012 3:15 pm

    I am a big fan of the Angels and/or Rangers losing on purpose.

  9. Typical Idiot Fan on November 19th, 2012 3:41 pm

    I get that there’s a pretty good sized crop of fans who think that a team should either be going for it or going young, and everything in between is just a waste of time.

    I did think this, a few years ago, but that’s not how I think now. The reason I thought it a few years ago is that we were losing anyway, the kids couldn’t do any worse and might learn something. Now, with our current crop of kids already learning, you almost need to support them with something solid.

    It is a different scenario entirely if you have a great OF prospect like Will Myers and you bring in 3 OF veterans on multi year contracts. That’s just needlessly blocking the kid who has nothing to learn in the minors. This is what a lot of us grumbled about back when with Adam Jones vis a vis Raul Ibanez (and Jose Guillen, etc). We’re not in that situation now. Filling any positional hole with a solid veteran player is just complementing things, not interrupting things.

  10. gag harbor on November 19th, 2012 4:42 pm

    Tell that to Billy Beane who’s A’s threw the last three games of 2008 so the M’s wouldn’t get Strasburg in the draft!

  11. Johnny Slick on November 19th, 2012 5:21 pm

    Show me a team whose front office decides to tank it on purpose for a couple years and I’ll show you a team that tanks it not on purpose for a decade.

  12. Longgeorge1 on November 19th, 2012 5:37 pm

    Not a fan of “losing on pupose” but if you are going to develop your own players buying veterans on the twilight of their careers doesn’t help. If we can get a Nick Swisher at a resonable cost I’m fine. We don’t need an aging veteran on the staff blocking a Rameriez, Paxton, Hultzen or Walker. We already have a great veteran leader on the club for our young pitchers his name is Felix.

  13. stevemotivateir on November 19th, 2012 8:03 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with Dave. I’ve really felt for the Miami fans. How do you get excited about next year, when you just watched three of your best players get dumped?

    Hopefully we wont ever see the Mariners do anything like that.

  14. GLS on November 19th, 2012 10:52 pm

    I just wish the Mariners would do something, anything. C’mon guys, go get an outfielder!

  15. rlharr on November 20th, 2012 3:39 am

    I agree in principle, but I think the 65-95 win range is bigger than one can reasonably support (though you didn’t say whether that was supposed to be 95%, 99%, whatever) – there are teams that consistently sit in a 15-win range over a period of years, and this despite changes in roster and luck over that period.

    Yankees last 10 years: 101 101 95 97 94 89 103 95 97 95

    Most teams aren’t that consistent (indeed, maybe the Yankees were the most consistent over the last 10 years, they were certainly the first team I thought of in this context), but most teams don’t have a philosophy that supports consistent year-to-year performance the way the Yankees do.

    Even for Seattle, which has had huge variations in talent levels over the past 10 years, you have to go back 10 years to get a 30-win range. If the range of reasonably ‘expectable’ results was so wide, the Mariners’ 85-win 2009 would not have been so surprising.

  16. amnizu on November 20th, 2012 11:15 am

    rlharr – 100% agree with what you’re saying. I want the M’s organization to be one that builds towards repeated playoff appearances over multiple consecutive seasons. Not just a team that happens to win the lottery one year.

    This is in principle what the Yankees, Rangers, and Philies have done. The Rangers and Phillies are good examples of how the M’s FO could leverage solid draft picks to build talent, intelligent trades and proper free agent acquisitions to build a consistently competitive team. Not just a one year lottery ticket.

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