A Run is a Run is a Run

Dave · January 18, 2013 at 11:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I know a lot of Mariners fans are tired of bad offensive teams. I know the Mariners are tired of bad offensive teams. In order to not have a bad offensive team next season, you’re more than willing to give up equal or greater amounts of pitching and defense, because you’re just tired of watching bad offensive teams.

Here’s the problem – if you want to win, you have to divorce yourself from that mindset. If you’re one of those who simply believes that the Mariners are doing the right thing by focusing solely on adding more power hitters in order to score more runs, please read this post. There’s some math, but it’s not scary math, and it’s not math you have to do. And the conclusion is perhaps the most important thing you can accept about baseball. I’m going to put the conclusion below this sentence, but you’ll want to read the whole post to see the evidence for yourself.

There is no evidence of additional benefit from improving a bad offense rather than improving a strong run prevention squad. There is simply no way to look at this data and suggest that there are strong levels of diminishing returns for run prevention, or that the models overrate the likelihood of a team with a bad offense’s chances of winning. If anything, the data points to the models slightly underrating those types of teams, and confirming the idea that, when it comes to winning more baseball games, a run is a run is a run.

Now, it’s almost certainly easier to improve on a weak offense than it is to improve on a strong run prevention group, or even vice versa. Filling a hole with a moderately useful player is simply not as challenging as upgrading on that a productive member of your team, and it’s certainly engrained within our personal psyche to focus on fixing what’s broken rather than improving areas that are working just fine. I’m not using this data to say that a team with a bad offense should just be content to keep having bad offensive clubs and focus entirely on preventing runs.

I am saying, however, that if a team makes a conscious decision to trade 20 runs allowed for 15 runs scored, they’re making a bad decision, no matter how bad their offense was the previous year. What matters is maximizing your ratio of runs scored to runs allowed, not reaching some kind of ideal balance between the two. Making a larger downgrade in pitching and defense in order to fix a bad offense is a trade-off that is likely to result in fewer wins. The same is likely true for swapping out hitters for pitchers, if you had a bad pitching staff last year.

Building a baseball team isn’t about simply improving on weaknesses. Building a baseball team is about putting as many good players on the field as possible, and caring too much what kinds of good players those are often leads to poor decision making. Don’t focus so much on scoring more runs or preventing more runs. Just focus on outscoring your opponent. That’s what wins games.

This isn’t “new stats versus old stats”, or “stats versus scouts”, or “insiders versus outsiders”, or any kind of argument that can be broken down along those lines. This is simply fact-based evidence. And that evidence simply refutes the idea that the Mariners are better off improving their offense, even if they have to sacrifice a greater number of runs prevented in order to make that improvement.

The “more power, more runs scored” approach to team building is simply incorrect. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t win games. Outscoring your opponent wins games. That’s the only thing the Mariners should care about.

Comments

77 Responses to “A Run is a Run is a Run”

  1. terry on January 18th, 2013 11:50 am

    Bravo!

  2. ChrisFB on January 18th, 2013 12:08 pm

    One way I console myself is related to the question at the beginning of your FG article…

    None of these guys are great players, but they provide the team with something they haven’t had much of lately, and combined with adjusting the dimensions of Safeco Field, it’s a pretty good bet that the 2013 Mariners are going to score more runs than the line-ups that they’ve put on the field the last three seasons. But, the question remains, will those additional runs scored lead to more wins?

    There is an outside chance that it could lead to more wins, if the defensive shortcomings of Morse, Morales and Ibanez are hidden as much as possible in, respectively, LF, 1b and DH.

    In general for those positions:

    True, left field defense might detract a bit from offensive output. But relative to other defensive positions it’s low on the list. 1b is generally one of the least important defensive positions in the field, unless there’s research I’m missing. DH obviously mitigates against Ibanez lawn darts.

    Specifically for those players:

    Morse is – if he reverts to 2011 form – a net positive contributor to run differential, even taking into account his defense. Heck, even an average left fielder is an upgrade from the Wells-Figgins-Robinson parade that was out there last season. (Though there’s an argument to be made that a full season of Wells in left v. a full season of Morse in left is a wash in terms of net contribution.)

    Morales was cited by a recent Fangraphs article as being the model of an average player, and given the struggles Smoak had last year (0.2 WAR), even an average player adds a couple wins.

    A swap in DH doesn’t alter the run differential unless he’s a rally killing horror show, and I can’t believe Ibanez is going to DH 162 games in 2013. Or that whatever DH contributions come in 2013 will be even worse than 2012.

    So overall:

    Perhaps the front office mindset is wrong, but at least the results of moves so far may not really do any harm and the M’s end up treading water instead of actively getting worse. Perhaps the motivation, either honestly or as it’s sold to the fanbase, was adding more power, and that’s not improving the team… but the people coming in aren’t exactly displacing Ryan’s or Guti’s gloves, or taking over 3b from Seager, or taking Felix’s rotation spot. So it could be worse. It could always be worse.

  3. stevemotivateir on January 18th, 2013 12:22 pm

    Anybody else suspect some of these moves are more about winning over fans, than actually winning? Of course they still wanna win, but I’m really curious if that isn’t the priority.

    From a PR standpoint, Jack seems to be doing well. The reaction to signing Ibanez and trading for Morse appears to be pretty strong. Surprisingly strong.

    I’ll be real curious to see how long that support lasts if it doesn’t translate into a significant number of wins right away.

  4. bookbook on January 18th, 2013 12:33 pm

    DH defense isn’t a priority, though the net effect of adding these DHs is more Montero behind the dish, probably. Defensive downgrade.
    We haven’t downgraded 1b defense. Hallelujah!
    Left field. I know teams have long traditions of putting terrible defenders there. I don’t think it costs many fewer runs to do so, but I’ll defer to folks who know what they’re talking about.

  5. absolutsyd on January 18th, 2013 12:38 pm

    While it’s true that a run is a run, you have to actually be able to score runs. You can have the best pitching and D in the world, but if you can’t score, you still won’t win.

  6. JasonJ on January 18th, 2013 12:41 pm

    There is definitely motivation to appease fans and get more exctitement at the ballpark.

    I used to go to Rockies games in the 90′s when the Blake Street Bombers were in full effect and while I consider myself a baseball purist and the games felt almost like a circus, I can’t deny that they were entertaining.

    That being said, I really don’t think the moves JZ has made so far are going to bring many people to the game. Ibanez is not Griffey, and Morse is not Hamilton. As Dave has essentially proven, wins are what brings people to the park, not players (for a long period of time at least). That is why I don’t support these moves because I don’t think they add wins now or in the future.

  7. MrZDevotee on January 18th, 2013 12:42 pm

    The overall thesis is kinda obvious to me, but isn’t there some sort of threshold that applies? Not trying to be a thorn, just always curious about this.

    A team that only scores 3 runs (hypothetical) a game will have a very difficult time winning games, no matter how good their pitching and defense is (because most teams can’t afford a staff that is sub 3.00 ERA, and no one can find 9 Mike Trouts).

    A team that averages 5+ runs a game should expect to win much more than that team, even with bad defense/pitching (because success at the plate is so low, even with bad pitching– range is what, .200-.300 most games).

    Taking it to extremes 0 runs give you 0 chance of winning, no matter how many perfect games you throw. Whereas 12 runs gives you a chance to win, no matter how many Carlos Silva’s you have (because you can’t control the other team’s suckiness, you’ll win games routinely).

    So there has to be a reasonable threshold. Yeah?

    Seattle WAS already great at run prevention last year, but not scoring runs meant a not very winning team. The space to lower our runs given up is MUCH smaller, being already near the top, and becomes more expensive as it gets better, whereas we can’t even really see the light at the end of the tunnel of improvements that could be made to the offense.

    It seems like a lab experiment conducted in a bubble. Because a team that scores historically low runs is probably poorly constructed, so there’s no reasonable expectation that their pitching staff and defense would somehow be the best in baseball (the only chance they would have of winning in that scenario). As you move towards the middle it’s more likely, granted, but that includes being better at scoring runs already.

    In the middle of the curve, I agree 100% with “a run is a run is a run”, but 1 run is infinitely more than zero, so the bottom of the curve is pretty heavily weighted.

    And wouldn’t slugging % reflect a higher chance of scoring than simply a good OBP (because people have the opportunity to advance more bases– meaning more likely to score someone from somewhere other than 3rd base).

    It just seems pretty clear, that if a guy is more likely to hit a ball that puts him beyond 1st base (high slug%), then the guys in front of him will score more often when they’re on base– whereas a guy who is mostly singles and walks (lower slug%) will score fewer of the guys in front of him (in a perfect world where both guys had the same number of opportunities)

    It just seems like Slug% is as important to run differential as UZR, or xFip? Is this wrong thinking? (Asking honestly)

    (The premise I’m working on here is that the M’s haven’t had a guy finish with a .500 or greater slugging percentage since 2009, when– tu-dah– Raul Ibanez did. I’m trying to see having guys who do that as significant, versus the minor upgrades we could make defensively? Or the minor step back we might make defensively…)

    ((Also, given the historically bad defense of Trayvon, Peggy and Carp in LF, are we really taking a step back with Mike Morse out there? More so than adding Slug% to the team?))

  8. Dobbs on January 18th, 2013 12:50 pm

    @MrZDevotee

    Why not stop talking hypotheticals and go get the real stats. Run the numbers and see what you come up with.

    Teams are going to score runs no matter what, how much they score is less important than the *difference* between how much they score and how much they allow.

    Hypothetically, do you want a team that scores 5 runs but gives up 6, or a team that scores 4 runs and gives up 3?

  9. californiamariner on January 18th, 2013 12:58 pm

    A run is a run is a run. Okay, I think we all agree with this. One thing that bothers me though is when people say things like “Well, we had terrible LF last year anyway, so Morse can’t be any worse.” Our goal shouldn’t be to slightly improve on the last place teams. Our goal should be to build the best possible team with the assets that are available. There obviously isn’t one way to build a winning baseball team. So, I think the focus should be on improving runs scored/runs prevented as much as possible and not worry about if we upgraded Carlos Peguero, because obviously upgrading Carlos Peguero shouldn’t be reason for excitement.

  10. mrb on January 18th, 2013 1:36 pm

    Wins are wins, but what fans don’t want wins – they want entertainment. Wins never put fans in the seats in Oakland when they were grinding out walks and homeruns.

    As a viewer, a bad offensive team is really unrewarding to watch. I like it when the M’s win, but it’s not worth the icky feeling of 3-up-3-down for 2.5 hours a night. Most of us are adults with additional interests and obligations in life. Living in New York, buying extra innings and recording games so I can wake up at 6am to watch them before heading in to work seems like a seriously questionable life decision when the team barely has a punchers chance if they go down by a run or two. At least a losing, high scoring team provides entertainment (in terms of tension and unpredictability) over a losing, low scoring team.

    And it’s obvious that Mariners either won’t or more likely can’t select a WINNING team. So wins aside, more runs is better.

  11. Leroy Stanton on January 18th, 2013 1:44 pm

    The mantra has been “a run is a run” for the past three years and yet the Mariners have been bad and offensively inept. Does that mean a run is not a run? Of course not, but any solution that ignores perception is going to be unsatisfying to the masses even if it is justified by non-scary math.

    As a software engineer you learn this lesson early. You can come up with the most elegant, intuitive UI in the world and yet, invariably, the powers that be insist that what’s missing is a big ugly button right in the middle of the application that accomplishes A, B, and C.

    How long do you argue your approach simply because it’s the right thing to do? Sometimes the “right” thing to do is to just state your case, give them the big ugly button, and then give them what they actually need where you can.

    Mike Morse is the Mariners’ big ugly button.

  12. terryoftacoma on January 18th, 2013 1:44 pm

    californiamariner

    You’re right. Assuming you can obtain the assets to build the best possible team. Jack tried to upgrade through free agency. They don’t want to play here. He tried a major trade. He doesn’t want play here, either. So he’s trying to upgrade the offense the way he has available.

    Other than losing Vargas and maybe at catcher and left for the most part our run prevention is still intact. Provided we don’t use Morse and Ibanez/Bay as our corner outfielders very often. At catcher we don’t know yet but assume that Montaro is going to catch most of the time since we still haven’t obtained another one yet.

    None of these additions is more than a one year stop gap(probably less). I don’t think Jack’s changed his overall plan at all. A boost in power offense may or may not win more games this year but if it convinces one FA agent next year to play here than it’s worth it.

  13. 300ZXNA on January 18th, 2013 1:45 pm

    Sad that this concept is brought up every few months both here and on Fangraphs, and yet people still resist the idea . . .

    That said, now that the trade is water over the dam, here’s to hoping that Morse can pull a Josh Willingham.

  14. 9inningknowitall on January 18th, 2013 1:50 pm

    I like having a team that can score runs but wins are far more important to me. A 1-0 win is the same in the standings as a 11-9 game. That is why I love Brendan Ryan because even though he doesn’t hit extremely well but dang he plays amazing defense. I’m still mad he didn’t win the Gold Glove.

  15. charliebrown on January 18th, 2013 1:51 pm

    I wonder of all of the talk from Mariners fans about how bad this trade is could keep free agents away from signing here.

    I know I wouldn’t want to work in a place that spent three days talking about how much better the guy that just left was.

  16. terryoftacoma on January 18th, 2013 2:02 pm

    mrb

    I know what you mean. I grew up listening to Dodger games with Koufax, Drysdale and Podres lots of low run games and not very exciting. I remember Drysdale being asked by a reporter while coming off the golf course what he thought of Sandy’s perfect game today.. Classic answer.. “Did we win?”

  17. Dobbs on January 18th, 2013 2:32 pm

    It is sad, I wouldn’t even bother making these posts. If people don’t want to use logic, then why even read this site?

  18. Klatz on January 18th, 2013 3:01 pm

    I posted a similar comment on the Fangraphs, but perhaps the M’s management is not thinking of wins per se, but attendance. If you do a simple linear regression, offense in 2011 was a better predictor than run prevention in 2011 for attendance the following year.

    I’m not sure the relationship will hold up from year to year but I suspect it might. Offense, just at glance, seems more entertaining than your team preventing runs in an inning.

  19. PackBob on January 18th, 2013 3:25 pm

    It seemed that for a number of years, players for the Mariners didn’t performed up to expectations, except Felix, Ichiro and a few others. Then none of the young guys Jack got have started to hit as it was thought they were going to.

    These are all 1-year deals for “proven” hitters, so it’s not like the Mariners are stuck with this roster. I don’t like the loss of Jaso at all, but as he appeared to be disliked by Wedge and not liable to play as much as I’d like to see anyway, maybe that didn’t matter too much.

    Even if the Mariners end up losing the same number of games in 2013, there may be some benefit to doing so while scoring more runs and hitting more home runs. Better offense while moving the fences in may ease the perception that Safeco is not where hitters want to come, and fans are tired of watching the worst offense in baseball.

    For Jack, with the high-profile hitters getting away, this may be a punt year waiting (and hoping) for the young guys to start hitting, and get some 1-year guys to hit some home runs while waiting.

  20. Gormogon on January 18th, 2013 3:26 pm

    Anecdotes: To me, there is nothing better in baseball than a fine defensive play. Nothing. Also, I have been to a lot games in my life, and I think fans are much more entertained when their team strings together 4-5 hits. Doesn’t matter if they are singles. In fact, I would posit that singles are actually preferred. Why? Because there are men on base, and men on base means potential. And that potential is present for every single pitch to the next batter. Here’s a scenario: Down by 3 in the bottom of the 9th inning. A man on first. No outs. Second man up jacks a homerun. Now you’re only down by one but no one is on base. Now, imagine the second batter gets a single or double so that two men are on base with no outs. Are you happier at this point than you were with the 2 run jack? I am. It’s more exciting to have men on base and the potential to score runs. I guess this is to showcase that I think power is overrated in terms of entertainment. Excitement in baseball is derived from having men on base, not the potential for a homerun by the present batter. (Also, switch that scenario to having the OTHER team’s guys on base and then coming up with a big defensive play or strikeout that kills their rally and wins the game)

    Anyway, “Outscoring your opponent wins games” is really the only thing that should need to be said, if that.

  21. greentunic on January 18th, 2013 3:57 pm

    I don’t think anyone believes we’d win more games by scoring 15 game more runs and allowing 20 more runs.

    That’s more than common sense. That’s first grade math.

    No one wants to trade Felix for Justin Upton, which would help our offense.

  22. groundzero55 on January 18th, 2013 4:00 pm

    With all the attention on Morse/Jaso et al, what’s been forgotten is our lack of a starting rotation. We just traded away our #2 pitcher, leaving our number two guy to be…Iwakuma? Then who? I’m guessing Erasmo and then Pitcher X and Pitcher Y.

    Speaking of run prevention…we could counterbalance the loss of defensive value in the outfield with better run prevention out of say, the #5 spot in the rotation.

  23. Jon on January 18th, 2013 4:30 pm

    I just want more offense, whether more power produces it or not. Being historically bad for this long is unbearable and unwatchable.

    To paraphrase Danny DeVito’s character from the movie Heist: “Every team needs offense. That’s why they call it offense.”

  24. terryoftacoma on January 18th, 2013 4:33 pm

    I’ve been screaming “What about are starers?” for weeks and haven’t seen an answer yet.

    No one to my knowledge disagrees with “a run is a run is a run”. This series of articles by Dave started with the trade of Jaso for Morse. The argument has been we gave up a more valuable player than we received. Depending on how you see Jaso that’s true. The organization saw Jaso as a part time catcher at best and to them trading a part timer for a full time player was a no brainer. Dave, myself(although not nearly as strongly) and others disagreed. Jaso has a full time catcher has much more value for the next three years than a rental. Which I think in some bought up the question of whether this organization can truly evaluate talent and whether they are building a winner or just saving there job. Quite frankly, I don’t have a clue to those but what’s done is done. It’s my hope that the power lineup experiment ends by July with a few more wins and we can get back to building true talent. But at this point who knows?

  25. georgmi on January 18th, 2013 4:35 pm

    I think the reason people object to the “a run is a run” argument is that they *think* that means “there is never a point of diminishing returns on defense”, when what it *really* means is, “we are not near the point of diminishing returns on defense”.

    Given that all teams scored between 583-808 runs in 2012, and all teams allowed 577-890 runs, we aren’t anywhere close to a point of diminishing returns on *either* offense or defense, and we never will be.

  26. MrZDevotee on January 18th, 2013 4:35 pm

    Dobbs,
    Ironically, that’s my point… You’re talking theoretically too. Because NO ONE can regularly hold their opponent under 3 runs. So if you average less than 4 yourself, you’re averaging a loss, and improving your pitching and defense at that point is in practical terms not possible (or the Yankees/Red Sox would already be at that level). You need to score more runs.

    If teams could play and pitch their way into giving up fewer than 3 runs, every team would be doing it– but that’s the threshold I see.

    You need to, at minimum, score 5+ runs to even have a chance at be a winning team. Because most nights you’re gonna give up at least 4.

  27. paracorto on January 18th, 2013 4:40 pm

    My late grandfather once said that same thing following a defeat “we lost this game when the opposite team scored the winning run”. And he said it just by twelve words.

  28. KBomb on January 18th, 2013 5:04 pm

    Can someone who’s better at math help me with this? Like other’s have mentioned already, does the fact that you can’t beat a team by scoring zero runs alter the value of runs saved vs runs scored?

    Not trying to be an ass. I’m genuinely curious. Theoretically, Felix could start six times a week and pitch a perfect game each time, but none of those would be wins without runs scored. Ian Snell can allow 8 runs, but if the 27 Yankees are playing behind him they still have a decent chance to win right? I’m thinking, we can’t hold an opposing team to negative runs scored. Is that something accounted for in advanced statistical analysis?

  29. vertigoman on January 18th, 2013 5:13 pm

    At the extreme there obviously is some degree of diminishing returns to run prevention. No one scores less than 0 afterall.

    Looking at run prevention over appropriate sample sizes, one knows we’re dealing with fractions of a run being the difference between good run prevention and poor run prevention. No team is so truely elite at run prevention as to ever get close to the line of diminishing returns on run prevention.

  30. jordan on January 18th, 2013 5:46 pm

    To those saying that the Mariners are building a team that will make watching them play more bearable:

    I do not thinking watching Beavan get lit up for 4 innings and losing 10-5 is bearable. We need a better back end of the rotation. As much as I like Morse (as irrational as it is), he was not a need.

  31. Westside guy on January 18th, 2013 5:52 pm

    Thing is, again – we can’t look at Morse in isolation. Certainly people who say “Morse can’t be any worse defensively than the players we ran out in left field in 2012″ have a point…sorta (I think he probably is worse defensively than Figgins). But we’re talking about potentially sacrificing significant defensive value in both left AND right field. Whatever you think about Ichiro’s 2012 offense, he was still a competent glove in right.

    I keep coming back to a comment I made in an earlier thread. Acquiring Morse could very well make sense, although not for the price we paid – IF we hadn’t already acquired Ibañez and basically guaranteed him a spot. Morse at least has the potential to provide more offensively than he takes away defensively (we can certainly debate that). But Raul really doesn’t have that potential at this point in his career – so it’s hard to argue the combo is anything but a downgrade over 2012.

  32. RaoulDuke37 on January 18th, 2013 6:09 pm

    If Mike Morse hits the ball out of Safeco Field and no one is there to see it, does it count as a run?

  33. firova2 on January 18th, 2013 6:17 pm

    The great pitching a couple of years ago had the team at .500 at midseason but the historically bad offense just died completely, leading to a 17 game losing streak. The margin for error was so narrow the past three years. The only fun part is that the games have been the shortest in the majors.

    Neither Morse, Ibanez, or Bay, or even Morales, is going to improve the club in a sustainable way. Jack knows, and don’t we all, that this team absolutely must get serious improvement from Ackley, Montero, perhaps Smoak if he is around, and it can’t afford steps back from Seager and Saunders–they have to be the real deal as average major leaguers. If four of those five guys don’t seriously have it together by the time Zunino and one or two of the big four minor-league starters are ready, Z is probably out the door anyway. Dustin just has to pan out.

  34. MrZDevotee on January 18th, 2013 7:39 pm

    Okay- I think I found an example of what I’ve been thinking.

    Ask Felix if his win-loss record will be remedied better by adding 3 really good defensive guys with higher WAR than we currently run out there, or 3 really good hitters to the middle of the lineup (which I’m NOT saying we got– by the way– just citing an example).

    There has to be diminishing returns, in the case of Felix, or other top pitchers. Every improvement you make on defense has less impact than an improvement in scoring runs, because they’re already holding teams to as few runs as can be expected.

    Again, in theory I agree, but the law of averages doesn’t actually apply to real life, according to Felix… Like the joke about 3 statistics guys going hunting– they spot a deer, and the first guy takes a shot. But misses 10 feet to the left. The second guy takes a shot, but misses 10 feet to the right. The third guy jumps up and down, and screams “We hit it! We hit it!”

  35. TIFO on January 18th, 2013 7:52 pm

    While you are absolutely correct there are a few arguments as to why the Mariners should be willing to punt defense this year in favor of more offense, even if it costs a few wins overall.

    The Mariners have a team that no hitter wants to come to right now and they even struggle to get the hitters by trade when the team the player is currently with doesn’t even want them. Usually if you just throw money at players, they’ll overlook these sorts of things. But apparently that’s not the case with the Mariners right now, who had the money and were willing to spend, but nobody seems to want to come. Somewhat unfairly, Safeco seems to now have the reputation amongst players of killing offense completely, rather than just suppressing it a bit.

    With the fences coming in, this is a good time for the M’s to try to do everything in their power to boost the offense to help show players that at the “new” Safeco, you can hit and even for power.

    There’s also the fact that if you can’t provide wins, plan B should always be provide as much entertainment value as possible. If you lose a few more games than you would have because you’re punting defense at a position or two, but are providing more net entertainment value, you’re going to get more fans in the seats.

    The last few years, the Mariners offense has been so anemic that if the opposing team gets 3 or 4 runs ahead even in the first inning, most fans checkout, because they know it’s a slim chance the Mariners will be able to come back. With a good offense, that doesn’t happen. At least you stay mildly entertained longer.

    Wins provide the most entertainment value, but losing 2-3 more games a year but overall providing more entertainment during most of the other games of the year (not 1-0, 2-1, etc. type games) is going to get more fans watching and coming to games. Now if it’s losing 5-10 more games a year, that’s a whole different thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about with the M’s recent moves.

    It’s a balance. If you punt defense at every position, you’re going to have trouble keeping that entertaining unless you have a bunch of aces on your staff. The other team’s just going to run away with things.

    But punting one or two positions, trading defense for offense, isn’t such a bad thing in the Mariners case.

    There’s also the argument Wedge and Jack Z have talked about before how the young players are altering their swings, trying too hard, both because of the way Safeco was and because of how the Mariners offense is. This can seriously hinder the development of some of those young players. So again, it can be nice to provide some legitimate offense, while sacrificing defense.

    Are the Mariners going to win more this year doing this? No. And maybe even a couple games less. But there are a lot of potential positives about making this switch.

    The bad thing would be if the Mariners were doing this over a lengthy span. But all the players we’re concerned about here that give offense but no defense are 1 year guys.

    It seems to me Z is just trying to change the culture of the offense and perhaps show players that Safeco is better now so that next year and beyond, he can actually convince free agent hitters who are good to come play for the Mariners.

    It’s certainly not Plan A, he wanted Hamilton and Upton and maybe more. But it’s not like for the 2013 Mariners there aren’t pluses with doing this. If nothing else, we can lose in a different way than the mind numbing 0-1 or 1-2 losses type wasted Felix starts and the like.

    I guess I just highly doubt anyone in the front office isn’t fully aware that “a run is a run”. So then, unless they are complete morons, I think we can safely assume that they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and probably have good reasons for doing as they have done for this season given everything they tried to do.

    Now if they go and sign Morse to a 4 year contract to play Left field, then I’ll take it all back and say they’re just morons. :-)

  36. bookbook on January 18th, 2013 8:12 pm

    MrZDevotee. Felix isn’t the best example, but you’re right: extreme strikeout pitchers benefit less from great defense behind them than they might from more hitting. If your rotation is Randy Johnson, Stee Carlton, Nolan Ryan et al, punt some defense to get more bats a-slashing.

    By the way, slugging is less valuable than obp towards scoring runs. Your common sense logic seems reasonable but doesn’t hold up. Better metrics than ops (just bop plus slugging), will value the on base component substantially more than the slugging.

  37. kimalanus on January 18th, 2013 8:41 pm

    For those who maintain that the Morse/Morales/Ibanez addition will result in a more exciting team putting more butts in seats, wins or no wins,

    This —-

    “Excitement in baseball is derived from having men on base, not the potential for a home run by the present batter.” Gormogon

    In the long run, OBP beats slugging and rally snuffing defensive plays are awesome. Anybody remember the excitement of Edgar (The Hitting Machine) Martinez at the plate or Brendan (The Hit Thief) Ryan at shortstop? Woohoo!

    On the other hand, look forward to the heart stopping fear of ‘ohgodohgodohgod, will he catch it?’ followed by the mind numbing terror of ‘aaaagh, will he make the throw?’

  38. nickwest1976 on January 18th, 2013 8:59 pm

    It looks like the payroll is at about $78 million (Larry Stone had a good piece on where payroll is at) and that the M’s were committed to getting it to closer to $90 mil.

    If defense in the OF is still a big concern, and I agree it is, then what about still going after Michael Bourn to play CF?

    If the M’s got Bourn they could go Saunders in LF and Guti in RF. Morse/Morales could split time at 1B/DH with the occasional OF start by Morse but with Casper Wells as the 4th OF. That’s an outstanding defensive OF and with Morse’s defensive short-comings more masked at 1B.

    Ibanez then is a bench bat with a few starts in the OF, DH or 1B.

    Then maybe the M’s can deal Smoak for a starting pitcher to help the rotation. There was talk of The Orioles wanting Smoak…what about a Smoak/Matusz type deal? Matusz still has a lot of talent, is young and club controlled for a bit.

    If the market for Bourn has come down then he could be a great addition for his OF defense and speed at the top of the order. Then we get better at run prevention with Bourn in the OF and much less Morse in the OF and we get better at run creation with Morse/Morales in the middle of the lineup and Bourn at the top.

    CF – Bourn
    2B – Ackley
    1B – Morse
    DH – Morales
    3B – Seager
    C – Montero
    LF – Saunders
    RF – Guti
    SS – Ryan

    That lineup is a ton better than last year. We would be strong up the middle defensively with gold glove caliber players in CF and SS and with Ackley very good at 2B. Montero is not a good defnsive catcher but we could add a veteran defensive guy to keep the seat warm for Zunino.

    I can handle the Morse deal much better and actually get behind it if he plays 1B most of the time and if the trade is followed up with a companion trade or two and potentially a free agent signing.

  39. davidgwilliams on January 18th, 2013 10:09 pm

    Great point about the runs. I think that the over emphasis on offense and home runs is why the U.S. team is .500 in two WBCs. Japan, and Korea, on the other hand are more successful with great defense, pitching, fundamentals, and manufactured runs. Run prevention + run production = success. As it is, it looks like the Mariners are changing from a team with a good defense and bad offense to a team with an average defense and an average offense.

  40. make_dave_proud on January 19th, 2013 12:08 am

    A run is a run is a run. It’s true.

    The Mariners have finished dead fucking last for how many years now?

  41. eponymous coward on January 19th, 2013 12:57 am

    You need to, at minimum, score 5+ runs to even have a chance at be a winning team. Because most nights you’re gonna give up at least 4.

    Apparently, the World Series champion Giants forgot to read your memo (4.43 runs/game in 2012). So did the 2011 champion Cardinals (4.7 runs/game). As did the 2010 world champions Giants (4.3 runs/game). It’s not the steroid era in baseball any more, or the late 1920′s-early 1930′s.

    Also, adjusting for park, the M’s weren’t that good at run prevention, certainly not “OMG, historically awesome, couldn’t possibly do better than that”. The defense was good, the bullpen was good, the starting pitching behind Felix was anywhere from “meh, OK” (Vargas, Iwakuma, Ramirez, Millwood collectively) to bad (Beavan and Noesi). This is reflected in the fact that the division champ A’s beat them in run prevention (so, tell me, anyone on their pitching staff you’d want to trade for Felix, straight-up? Thought so). Adjusted for park, the 2012 Mariners were OK at run prevention, but not “wow, you couldn’t get any better than that”. So yes, you don’t really want to rob Peter to pay Raul.

    Ian Snell can allow 8 runs, but if the 27 Yankees are playing behind him they still have a decent chance to win right?

    The 1927 Yankees averaged 6.3 runs a game on offense, leading the league (so had they allowed 8 runs a game, they would have been a losing team)… and 3.9 runs/game allowed on defense, leading the league.

    What made them a 110 win team was the fact that they had an excellent run differential, not just a good offense. A good offense plus bad pitching gets you the 1930 Phillies.

    Anyways, the long and the short of it is Dave’s entire point is that you want to concentrate on acquiring talent that leads to a team with better run differential, and not necessarily get hung up on “do I have enough dingers”? Like that guy Billy Beane down in Oakland.

  42. bubba_gump on January 19th, 2013 9:00 am

    Here is a fact. I will find the Mariners more interesting and will watch more games if they score more runs. Watching them lose 5-3 or 7-6 is a heck of a lot more exciting than watching them lose 1-0 or 2-0. The offense over the last few years just gave me no hope. At least by adding power there is hope that they could score a few runs and hold on defensively.

  43. smb on January 19th, 2013 9:11 am

    Adding bats by consistently giving up more talent than you get back is bad management. We’ll just lose more, but it’ll be like the early to mid 90′s instead…remember how frustrating it was to lose 10-8 every night on a blown Ayala save? Let me remind you that that was not more fun than losing by 1-0 or 2-1 scores…in fact it was worse in at least one way, because you always knew as we built a big lead that it would never survive our bullpen. Balanced approach, fill holes but don’t get swindled like the Fister trade just to “add a bat.”

    Can you please re-post this article once a week, every week, for the next year? Please!!

  44. Jordan on January 19th, 2013 9:33 am

    I don’t think anyone is denying that a run is a run is a run or having a great run differential will lead to more wins. The argument is whether the 2013 Mariners are more watchable than the last 3 years of offensive suckitude.

    Since this team is still several pieces away (some may already be on the current roster) from mediocrity, why not make the team more watchable on the days Felix pitches while waiting another year to see if the younger players can sustain (Seager, Saunders) and improve (Montero, Smoak, Ackley et. al.) their performances?

    Is the team more watchable with Morales and Morse on the days when 4/5 aren’t pitching? Absolutely!

    The great thing about the acquisitions this off season is they are only one year deals. If the young nucleus pans out and Morse and Morales stay healthy you extend them. If they don’t, then you get some value back at the deadline.

    Plues, if you have any interest in extending Felix and bringing in free agent bats, this experiment and sacrifice of defense for offense needs to take place.

  45. Jordan on January 19th, 2013 9:40 am

    SMB
    While it is true that both the Fister and Morse trades were bad and this is a terrible approach, Jaso was mis-evaluated by the current management and was not going to play. From that perspective it is easier to swallow the Morse debaucle.

    I remember the Ayala days and yes it was demoralizing. However, Zduriencik has proven 2 things thus far: 1) he is fairly decent at large item pickup day and 2) most agree he is good at evaluating younger talent.

    Since one of the strengths of this team is most likely the bullpen, highly volatile to be sure, I will take my chances losing 6-5.

  46. stevemotivateir on January 19th, 2013 11:22 am

    Here is a fact. I will find the Mariners more interesting and will watch more games if they score more runs. Watching them lose 5-3 or 7-6 is a heck of a lot more exciting than watching them lose 1-0 or 2-0. The offense over the last few years just gave me no hope. At least by adding power there is hope that they could score a few runs and hold on defensively.

    Wow, you couldn’t have missed the entire point of this post any worse!

    You don’t need power to score runs. You don’t. Really. The reigning World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, were dead last in HR’s, but sixth in run scored. Their offense was exciting and the attendance certainly didn’t suffer from the lack of power, as they were ranked fourth overall, second in the NL.

  47. stevemotivateir on January 19th, 2013 11:34 am

    Is the team more watchable with Morales and Morse on the days when 4/5 aren’t pitching?

    Are they less watchable with Jaso in place of either of them?

  48. MrZDevotee on January 19th, 2013 11:53 am

    Concessions-
    I’ll give credit where credit is due:

    2012 Season:
    6 of the Top 8 OBP teams made the playoffs.
    (Not an easy way for me to get around that fact…)

    If you get more guys on base, you score more runs.

    (Also interesting to note– the easiest way to score runs, in Captain Obvious terms, is to both get on base AND hit for power… The Angels, Yankees and Rangers are Top 5 in BOTH OBP and Slgg%… Damn them.)

  49. The_Waco_Kid on January 19th, 2013 1:44 pm

    The M’s were at the bottom in most offensive categories, but not HR. So really, Morse needs to provide a high SLG, not just dingers. OBP and SLG are both important and both have been lacking for us. There’s too much focus on getting power, but I’d love to see both.

    I also agree with kimalanus’s quote. Having men on base makes the game more interesting, whether people realize it or not. HR are exciting, but moreso with men on base.

  50. Jordan on January 19th, 2013 1:56 pm

    Yes Steve, but only because Jaso was used inadequately in a platoon role. Obviously this is more of a fault w/ Wedge and the rest of management.

    Also, by trading Jaso now and not at the deadline if/when Zunino would’ve forced his way onto the roster, the organization got more for him.

    I do not like the trade and think the organization should’ve recognized Jaso for the asset that he was and got more back for him. However, if Morse is used more at 1b/DH and can stay healthy, this could be seen as more of a lateral move.

    If this move was made before the acquisitions of Bay/Ibanez or if the Mariners had brought in Shoppach, I think less people would have a problem with it.

  51. stevemotivateir on January 19th, 2013 2:12 pm

    Also, by trading Jaso now and not at the deadline if/when Zunino would’ve forced his way onto the roster, the organization got more for him.

    The Mariners sent him to a division rival with control for several years, and received an injury-prone player with no glove, in the final year of his contract, who they likely could have signed next offseason without having to give anyone up.

    Really hard to see how they sold high on him.

    This isn’t even a lateral move, regardless of whether or not Morse can stay healthy. Jaso’s a better hitter and offers some defense at a more important position. And that’s just looking at 2013. If Morse isn’t retained, it’s even more insulting.

    If Bay and Ibanez were never signed, and Jaso wasn’t the trade chip, yeah, there probably wouldn’t have been so much resistance. But even in that scenario, he wouldn’t make a ton of sense, unless you never traded for Morales as well.

  52. bubba_gump on January 19th, 2013 2:56 pm

    “Wow, you couldn’t have missed the entire point of this post any worse!

    You don’t need power to score runs. You don’t. Really. The reigning World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, were dead last in HR’s, but sixth in run scored. Their offense was exciting and the attendance certainly didn’t suffer from the lack of power, as they were ranked fourth overall, second in the NL.”

    And you missed the entire point of my comment. By adding power it gives ME HOPE that the M’s will score more runs than the small ball, defensive style teams that have worked so well these last 5 years. Obviously the M’s agree. Bringing the fences will held defensively, no Steve?

  53. BillyJive on January 19th, 2013 3:29 pm

    I am looking forward to Dave’s next post entitled ‘Sign Erik Bedard’

  54. djw on January 19th, 2013 3:59 pm

    I’m so old I can remember some of the mediocre Mariners teams of the 1990′s, with a murderer’s row of a lineup and dreadful run prevention. A lot of the chatter I heard from frustrated fans was the direct inverse of what I see in this thread, along the lines of “all the home runs are nice, but it’s just so frustrating to see them all go to waste when the bullpen comes in. It’s embarrassing to be a fan of a team with such incompetent pitching” and so on and so forth. I think it’s a pretty good idea not to take this kind of chatter and speculation too seriously. If the team finds a way to win 90 games and compete for the playoffs, we’ll be thrilled no matter how they do it. If we’re looking at another 70 win season, very few people will take much solace in a modest bump in home run totals.

    Also, since no one else has mentioned it, this:

    I wonder of all of the talk from Mariners fans about how bad this trade is could keep free agents away from signing here.
    I know I wouldn’t want to work in a place that spent three days talking about how much better the guy that just left was.

    Is one of the most straightforwardly insane suggestions I’ve ever seen in one of these comment threads. I have no idea why anyone would think a few negative comments on a blog somewhere about an entirely different player would have anything whatsoever to do with a future free agent’s deliberations. Also, it’s not like Mariners fans are somehow unique in expressing displeasure at what they perceive to be bad trades; this is pretty much universal.

  55. stevemotivateir on January 19th, 2013 5:25 pm

    Ok, bubba. Let’s look at the last line of that first comment you made.

    At least by adding power there is hope that they could score a few runs and hold on defensively.

    How are you not suggesting that they need power to score runs? It’s really as if you didn’t read the post at all.

    And with the fences coming in, the need for extra power should be less necessary, right?

    I get that you feel more cozy with power. But it sounds incredibly funny that you would share your feelings in the comments of this specific post.

  56. bubba_gump on January 19th, 2013 6:35 pm

    Steve, poor choice of words on my behalf in relation to power….however with these additions/modifications do you think the M’s score more runs than years last? I do; and I think it will be more interesting to watch because if a batter steps into the box that has the ability to jack one out, it can change the course of a game more than a John Jaso line drive.

  57. djw on January 19th, 2013 8:32 pm

    Of course the Mariners are likely to score more runs in 2013 than 2012. (Although that would also have been true with no personnel moves at all, although to a lesser degree.) I’m not at all convinced that they’ve set themselves up to have a better run differential than last year, though, due to subtractions in pitching a defense, so I’m not particularly impressed by this change, because run differential matters, not dingers.

  58. Hunter S. Thompson on January 19th, 2013 10:40 pm

    For all those saying, I’ll watch more games, (win or lose) if they score more runs, will you really?

    Statistics say otherwise, winning not offense equates to increases in attendence. I want to see a better team, Morales helps, Morse, for Jaso does not.

    We still need an outfielder and some SP, hopefully we spend some of our remaining cash on that.

  59. BLYKMYK44 on January 20th, 2013 12:11 am

    I’ll get through all of the comments one day…but can I tell you how hilarious it is to see people talk about scoring “ZERO” runs as if that is some sort of an expectation (or possible)…in the same sentence when they mention that they’d rather see an 11-9 loss (as if averaging nine runs a game is any more realistic)….

    If you don’t understand this simple concept…then you’re just not going to understand why defense is important…just accept it and move on I guess…

  60. stevemotivateir on January 20th, 2013 6:03 am

    @bubba

    You do realize Jaso is has power as well, right? Last year his SLG was .456. Morse was a little higher at .470, but had a significantly lower OBP.

    Personally, I’m more excited with Jaso. HR’s, triples, doubles, singles, and walks, are all exciting with runners on. I even find it exciting to see a batter work the count.

  61. stevemotivateir on January 20th, 2013 7:04 am

    *Feel free to laugh at my grammar. Seriously though, I fail to see how anyone could not be excited every time Jaso stepped to the plate.

  62. shadow_watch on January 20th, 2013 8:56 am

    This team has done nothing to improve itself this offseason. They’ve just moved the shells while they continue to cut payroll. One 2 WAR player for another. A little more power, a little less defense. Who cares.

    Didn’t we try the save runs game a couple of years ago? How did that work out?

    But whoa Nelly, let’s not give a 4-5 WAR player an extra year on a contract offer, especially with a new TV deal on the horizon.

    You don’t get better bringing in vets at the end of their career. We tried that with Bavasi. You don’t attract free agents by halving your payroll and allowing your revenue streams to dry up because you field a poor excuse for a team. Sad, really sad.

  63. shadow_watch on January 20th, 2013 9:03 am

    A team that fails to invest to improve because they are two years away from contending will always be two years away from contending.

  64. Westside guy on January 20th, 2013 12:26 pm

    “Didn’t we try the save runs game a couple of years ago? How did that work out?”

    Given that I don’t recall anyone ever claiming good defense can counter a historically inept offense, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make there.

    But, excepting that one sentence – I pretty much agree with you.

  65. PackBob on January 21st, 2013 1:10 am

    However good an offense is, if the team gives up more runs than it scores, the team will generally lose. However good the defense and pitching is, if the team scores fewer runs than it gives up, the team will generally lose.

    It doesn’t matter how many runs a team scores, only how many compared to the teams it plays.

  66. ChrisFB on January 21st, 2013 6:30 am

    Actually, on consideration, I think the larger point can be made by saying that teams win by getting higher quality players.

    The philosophical bits about offense v. pitching/defense and where the margins are for value and all that are kind of a distraction from that. It’s not that flipping the switch to look for ‘more power’ or ‘more offense’ or ‘a #3 hitter’ was leading to overemphasizing offense and that that alone was a bad thing. For example, if the pursuit of offense had brought in Hamilton or Swisher, or resulted in a good deal for Upton or Stanton, I don’t think we would be handwringing over a front office that just doesn’t get it.

    The problem is not the pursuit of power in and of itself… it’s that the pursuit of power led to a lower tier of player.

    Morse for Jaso was a lateral move based on a blind pursuit of more power. It ignored and undervalued Jaso’s contributions and treated Morse’s strengths as an overall upgrade, when it isn’t.

    Jaso as part of an Upton package? Probably. Jaso as part of a Stanton package? Of course. Jaso for Morse, where the ceiling is a ~3.5-ish WAR season and highlight reels of 450 ft homeruns? Meh. More settling and setting sights low by the front office.

    The front office doesn’t need to pursue a strategy of ‘pitching and defense’ OR ‘offense’. It’s not either/or. The front office needs to be importing or developing the highest quality players possible at each position. Whether their value is on pitching, defense or offense.

    Really, they were getting 3ish WAR from their nominal backup catcher. How many teams in baseball get that from their backup catcher? Leave that alone and go upgrade the outfield. Or starting catcher. Or the rotation. Or, imagine that, all 3…

  67. heyoka on January 21st, 2013 10:44 am

    what isn’t a run, isn’t a run, isn’t a run

  68. lalo on January 21st, 2013 6:03 pm

    Ronny Paulino just signed with the M´s. Better than Olivo I guess.

  69. yoshkawano on January 21st, 2013 7:17 pm

    Remember when Pay-Rod reached free agency? Texas put offense so far ahead of defense and finished worse despite adding the “greatest shortstop ever.” The lesson was proven then.

  70. djw on January 21st, 2013 7:57 pm

    What? When Alex Rodriquez signed that contract he was a defensive asset. He provided the Rangers with well below market WAR for the three years he was on their team.

  71. MrZDevotee on January 21st, 2013 9:21 pm

    Lookout Landing quotes a Latin American news agency as announcing that the M’s have signed catcher Ronny Paulino to a $1 million deal.

    Not very interesting, until you look at his career splits versus right handers (what Jaso’s role was on the M’s)

    Career:
    Jaso– .270/.368/.421
    Paulino– .325/.379/.465

    (oddity being Paulino is a right handed bat who hits righties significantly better than lefties– including twice as many at bats against righties as lefties)

  72. MrZDevotee on January 21st, 2013 10:57 pm

    <<< And I read that completely wrong… He hits LHP better, like one would expect. So yeah, nevermind.

  73. greentunic on January 22nd, 2013 4:35 pm

    But Montero hits LHP well. Does this mean he would DH against LHP and Paulino catch? Then Morales would either be benched or play 1B depending on Smoak’s situation.

    Looks like Montero at C against the RHP majority. For now.

  74. Mid80sRighty on January 22nd, 2013 4:49 pm

    ^^^I believe it’s all but a done deal right now that Montero is going to be the starting catcher with no platoon partner.

  75. yoshkawano on January 22nd, 2013 7:15 pm

    When the Rangers signed Pay-Rod they allocated too much of their monetary assets on his offensive prowess. They couldn’t afford to improve their pitching and won maybe 2 games more than the year before. They didn’t improve their bottom line until the Yankees took that contract off their hands.

  76. djw on January 22nd, 2013 7:30 pm

    That’s risible nonsense. He gave them 27 WAR in three years, at well under than 3 million per. Their overall performance those years had to do with poor allocation of resources (Chan Ho Park, Juan Gonzalez) and underperforming young players. But if you think getting a player who never takes a day off and gets you ~9 WAR a season at a premium position for 22 million is a *problem* you don’t understand baseball.

  77. Badbadger on January 25th, 2013 1:02 pm

    A lot of people have suggested that more defense can run into a problem of diminishing returns. I don’t guess I see that. It certainly get harder to add defense the better your team already is; if you have a Brendon Ryan type defender at every position then how are you going to find someone to make it better? But if you can find someone who makes you better defensively it’s still going to help.

    The place where there’s going to be diminishing returns is when you’re, for example, giving up 1 run a game and scoring 7. Preventing a few more runs isn’t going to make you win much more because you’re already winning 150 games a year or something. But the same thing would go for offense too.

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