Cactus League Game 6, Mariners at Giants

February 28, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

Jon Garland vs. Matt Cain, 12:05

Yesterday, the M’s got a glimpse of their future, with Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker throwing four scoreless innings and drawing rave reviews from scouts (Walker more than Hultzen). Today, the M’s show their versatility by pairing the formerly steady, unspectacular Jon Garland with the human pitching machine known as Blake Beavan. When Garland was a healthy innings-eater, he used a low-90s four-seamer to get a lot of flyouts and pop-ups. From 2009 through his injury-marred 2011, he worked in a sinker, and reinvented himself a bit as a ground-ball guy, though he wasn’t healthy enough to see how that evolution played out. With all the talk of Beavan’s new arm-angle and his own increasing use of a sinking two-seam fastball, it appears the Texan may be attempting a similar transformation. Still, after the excitement of yesterday, this game feels a bit like a letdown. Ask a scout about Tai Walker, and you’ll get pages of rapturous text, analogies to the happiest moments in their lives, digressions on the nature of beauty, all on pages stained with tears of joy. Ask a scout about Blake Beavan, and he’ll hand you a blank sheet of beige paper.

The big story yesterday wasn’t so much Taijuan’s velocity, though the radio broadcast did mention he hit 98 and scouts said he worked at 96 with regularity, but his use of a cut fastball/slider that sat in the low-90s. Walker had mentioned that he’d picked up the pitch late in 2012, but obviously hadn’t had a chance to throw too many of them. That he did so against (mostly) MLB hitters yesterday was a good sign. Walker is the latest in a string of pitchers that ex-Jackson Pitching Coach Lance Painter’s taught to throw this pitch, and the latest who’s seemingly picked it up quite quickly. Andrew Carraway talked about it in our interview with him, and it seemingly helped Stephen Pryor get his career back on track after a disastrous half-year in High Desert. Painter’s moved to High Desert this year to be closer to home, and it’ll be interesting to see how the M’s view sending pitchers to that inhospitable environment. If Walker’s new cutter is any indication, Painter’s established himself as one of the most important members of the player development group.

Also today, lefty Brian Moran and his teasingly slow fastball should get some work, as should electric-armed righty Carter Capps. The parade of new pitchers throughout a game has to be a bit tough for hitters who play an entire game, but I can’t imagine facing Moran in the 5th and then Capps in your next AB in the 7th.

Today’s line-up:
1: Gutierrez, DH
2: Thames, LF
3: Wells, RF
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Montero, C
6: Morban, CF
7: Liddi, 3B
8: Franklin, 2B
9: Miller, SS
SP: Garland

His future with the M’s is uncertain, but Wells is certainly getting some opportunities this spring. It’s also good to see Nick Franklin and Brad Miller get a start against a really tough MLB pitcher in Cain. Julio Morban makes his first start, and his first in CF.

Once again, the radio broadcast will be tape delayed and played at 7pm, but the audio is live on gameday and at

Go M’s!

Cactus League Game 5, Mariners at Indians

February 27, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 29 Comments 

Danny Hultzen vs. Some Guy 12:05pm

The M’s won their fourth straight yesterday with a come-back win over Milwaukee. Today they look to push around some other homespun midwesterners when they face Cleveland. Danny Hultzen gets the start, looking to build on his seven pitches, seven strikes, three outs inning the other day. Following him is Taijuan Walker, who’ll also get two innings. And only after that, when despair has set in amongst the Tribe’s batsmen, only when their soft underbelly has been casually exposed, will the M’s send Hector Noesi back to the mound. Tune in early, folks.

As with yesterday’s game, the radio broadcast is tape delayed until 7:05pm. If you’d like to listen live, get to a computer and go to for the call.

1: Ackley, 2B
2: Wells, LF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Ibanez, DH
6: Saunders, CF
7: Paulino, C
8: Peguero, RF
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Danny Hultzen

An interesting line-up, with Ackley and Ryan back, and with Wells getting another start batting in the #2 spot. Also, Morales makes his first start at 1B.

Cactus League Game 4, Mariners at Brewers

February 26, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 25 Comments 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yovani Gallardo, 12:05

I’m dropping the ‘.5’ which denoted the charity game. Like you, I’d just assume forget about that game and all of the Noesi it contained. Since then, the M’s are unbeaten. Today, for the first time, they venture out of Peoria and play somewhere else. This also means that we won’t have pitch fx on the web or in GameDay. Couple that with the fact that the radio broadcast is being delayed until 7pm on KIRO and you’ve got a recipe for a productive afternoon spent on things other than analyzing Iwakuma’s velocity and Aaron Goldsmith’s mellifluous baritone.

(If you’d like to listen to the game live, it’s up at here)

Dave mentioned it in his ‘Spring Training doesn’t matter’ piece a few days ago, but it keeps coming up: the conventional wisdom is that Iwakuma came to camp still on the mend from his 2011 shoulder injury. He certainly gave up a lot of hits, and his start in the Tokyo Dome against a Japanese team was abysmal, but evidence that his arm was weak is actually fairly hard to find. Here’s Iwakuma’s velocity chart throughout the 2012 season. Not much going on there. “Sure, but he was used as a reliever at the beginning,” you say. This is true, but a pitcher typically gains a bit of velocity as the weather warms up, so the two effects may cancel each other out. More to the point though, Iwakuma showed pretty normal velocity in the spring last year. He started against the Dodgers on March 10th, and pitched 4 innings. In the 4th, his FB was generally 89-91. That’s…that’s pretty much what he was like in July.

I’ve been much more willing to give the M’s a break on Iwakuma, as they were watching him throw, and could assess how we was feeling after his spring starts. There must’ve been a reason for the way he was handled. The team has several sets of highly experienced eyes on players in the spring, after all. But while I can’t question their effort, it remains to be seen whether all of this intent looking reliably identifies players whose arms can’t handle the rigor of regular duty and those who can. This isn’t a knock on the M’s specifically, at least not necessarily. I just wonder what the best way to improve the process might be. I know the M’s have been using TrackMan data (which is, sadly, proprietary) – perhaps there’s a way to integrate rotation data with qualitative reports from pitching coaches or the pitcher himself. Maybe there are better ‘tells’ than simple fastball velocity, and velocity loss throughout a game – something like movement on breaking balls. To be clear, many actually are studying this, and teams are clearly doing even more (the author of the linked article now works for the Rays). A few years ago, I’d assume the M’s were doing so, and in even more ingenious, well-designed ways. I don’t assume that anymore.

Anyway, Iwakuma! Mariners, versus the hated Brewers (if you remember the series of epic brawls between the M’s and Brewers in the 80s, you know that’s not ironic spring training puffery)!

1: Gutierrez, CF
2: Saunders, LF
3: Morse, RF
4: Smoak, DH
5: Shoppach, C
6: Jacobs, 1B
7: Andino, SS
8: Catricala, 3B
9: Triunfel, 2B
SP: Iwakuma

Other pitchers today include Joe Saunders, Kameron Loe, Carson Smith and, if we’re all lucky, Hector Noesi.

Cactus League Game 3.5, Mariners vs Angels

February 25, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

Jeremy Bonderman vs. Garrett Richards, 12:05

It seems like it was only a few years ago that Jeremy Bonderman was a precocious high school phenom from Pasco who was so ready for pro ball that he was drafted as a junior (he got his GED despite struggling with learning disabilities). Ok, no, it seems like it was a lifetime ago. From a trade and the subsequent write-up in ‘Moneyball’ to a single-A to MLB rotation playing with the worst baseball team in a generation, to a six WAR season, to frustratingly talented journeman to injury victim. He’s barely 30 years old, and he’s been at the center of some of the biggest baseball arguments of the past 20 years. Should teams draft high-school pitchers? If you’re going to rebuild, does it matter if your team could lose 120 games? Do some pitchers really have true-talent BABIP problems, or is FIP a better gauge of talent in essentially every case?

Jeremy Bonderman has had Tommy John surgery. He’s had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and he wasn’t even a Texas Ranger. That malady not only caused a blood clot in his shoulder that required surgery, it eventually led him to have a rib removed. Beyond the arguments, beyond the frustrated promise, Jeremy Bonderman is just trying to pitch again, if only to retire without a bunch of questions and regrets. There are reclamation projects in every club’s camp right now, and the list of players who think rest, recovery or even a titanium necklace has cured them of career-threatening injuries encompasses essentially every living pitcher who missed the MLB season in 2012. The M’s have two of them, after all. But it’s tough to root against Bonderman.

And it’s against the Angels, so, I mean, c’mon.

Line-up, now featuring the starting double-play combo for the first time:
1: Ackley 2B
2: Wells CF
3: Bay LF
4: Morales DH
5: Montero C
6: Smoak 1B
7: Thames RF
8: Liddi 3B
9: Ryan SS
SP: Bonderman,woooo

Other pitchers who figure to see some action include Brandon Maurer, who’s replaced Erasmo Ramirez as the 4th member of the ‘Big Three’ pitching prospects (never let math stand in the way of marketing), Andrew Carraway, Anthony Fernandez, Carson Smith and Brian Moran. Glad that this game takes place in Peoria.

Go Bonderman, and Go M’s.

Spring Training Results

February 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 50 Comments 

I put up a version of this post every year. For those who have been reading for a while, I apologize for the redundancy, but it unfortunately remains necessary.

As you are no doubt aware, Cactus League games began over the weekend. The good news is that means that we can stop hearing about who looked good jogging and stretching. The bad news is that now we have to hear who looked good because they put together a nice week or two against minor league pitching in a minor league ballpark in games that don’t count.

The usefulness of spring training statistics have been examined a couple hundred ways, and the result is always the same – they hold no information of value. Whether a guy has a good spring (Munenori Kawasaki hit .455 in Arizona last year) or a bad spring (John Jaso didn’t get a hit until the final week in March), the data has no predictive value. It is completely worthless, for all the reasons Jeff laid out a few weeks ago.

Every year, though, decisions are made based on how players do in March. The decisions are justified by claiming that it they aren’t based on the results, but on how the players look to experienced coaches and scouts who are paid to evaluate players in an up-close-and-personal atmosphere. The problem is that human beings — even experienced scouts and coaches — are pretty terrible at evaluating the difference between “how a guy looks” and what his results are.

In other words, it’s really hard to look bad if you’re hitting a bunch of home runs. It’s really hard to look good if every pitch you throw ends up as a rocket off the bat. Our opinion of how a player looks is informed by the outcome of the plays he is directly involved in. Yes, even trained MLB coaches. Despite the appeal to authority that people like to make, they are simply not immune to the biases that are inherent in our human reaction to watching people perform.

Last year, Eric Wedge watched John Jaso do poorly at absolutely everything, and his evaluation was that Jaso couldn’t help the team in any real capacity, so he stuck him at the end of the bench and never used him. He watched Hisashi Iwakuma give up a bunch of hits and decided that he wasn’t ready to pitch in the Majors, so he made him the backup long reliever and never let him pitch either. Meanwhile, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi locked up their rotation jobs with strong springs. Alex Liddi played himself onto the team by showing a significantly improved approach at the plate, edging out Carlos Peguero for the final roster spot, despite the fact that Peguero was also deemed to be quite impressive in March.

When the games started counting, it became clear that Noesi and Beavan didn’t belong in the rotation, Jaso was the team’s best catcher, Iwakuma was being completely wasted in the bullpen, and Liddi still had no business in the Major Leagues. Of course, neither did Peguero. Pretty much every decision about playing time that was influenced by what the coaches saw last March turned out to be incorrect. And those decisions haunted the Mariners all year long. It wasn’t until the second half of the year that Jaso and Iwakuma finally got the roles they deserved, and half a season of good performances weren’t enough to change the coaches predetermined minds about what kind of skills Jaso possessed.

It wasn’t just the fringe guys either. The biggest story coming out of spring training last year was Ichiro’s rebirth as a #3 hitter, as he hit .415/.479/.634 in Cacus League play. A close second was how strong Dustin Ackley looked, as 10 of his 13 hits went for extra bases and he only struck out five times in 45 at-bats. You know what happened to those two once April rolled around.

There were basically two stories from last spring that turned out to contain real grains of truth: Michael Saunders‘ revamped swing and Erasmo Ramirez‘s stuff taking a step forward.

Early on, it became clear that Saunders was hitting for power to to the opposite field, which he had never really been able to do before. I wrote about that last March 15th, for instance, as we followed with some amazement as Saunders drove double after double to left and center in Arizona. While he was still a pull-heavy hitter during the regular season, he took a big step forward in his results on hitting to center field, which was one of the primary reasons he had a breakthrough 2012 season.

That said, Saunders didn’t exactly have a monstrous Spring Training from a results perspective. He hit .356/.396/.533, which is pretty good until you remember that everyone hits well in Arizona. Of the 10 guys who got at least 40 at-bats in spring training last year, Saunders’ .929 OPS ranked seventh, just barely ahead of Jesus Montero (.923). The only guys who got regular playing time and didn’t hit as well as Saunders last year were Chone Figgins and Casper Wells. If we expand the list to guys with 30 or more at-bats, Saunders also falls behind Justin Smoak.

So, yeah, Saunders showed something last spring that was worth paying attention to, but it wasn’t a results thing – it was a change in mechanics and a display of a skill he did not previously have. Likewise, Erasmo Ramirez showed an average fastball speed of 94 MPH in games at Peoria (where PITCHF/x cameras are installed), which is well above what he’d shown previously in the minors. Like with Saunders, the results weren’t overly spectacular — one walk, four strikeouts in 10 innings — but the stuff was significantly better than had been seen in the minors, and Ramirez’s uptick in velocity allowed him to move from being a suspect to a real prospect.

Saunders and Ramirez exemplified the kinds of changes that actually matter in March. Big changes in velocity can matter, though as Felix showed, velocity loss can also not really matter, so don’t read too much into guys working to get their fastballs up to normal speed over the next few weeks. I’d say a velocity spike — recorded by a PITCHF/x camera, not a radar gun, and adjusted for the readings other pitchers were getting that day — is more important than velocity loss in March. For hitters, we don’t have such an easily recordable skill measurement, so there’s going to be a lot more of the BS fluff stories about so-and-so changing his swing. With Saunders, it was real, but it also resulted in a pretty obvious change in the direction and trajectory of the ball coming off his bat.

The rest of it, though, was total garbage. And pretty much 90% of what you’re going to read and hear over the next month is going to be total garbage. Jason Bay is going to “look good” when he hits home runs, and he’s going to “look old” when he strikes out. Unfortunately, the organization and the coaching staff have shown that they’re going to make decisions based on how guys look in Arizona, and so as long as Jason Bay stays healthy and hits a few more home runs, he’s probably going to make the team, while Casper Wells will be shipped off to someone who has a better grasp of Wells’ skills. This is an unfortunately predictable outcome, and I’m preparing myself for the inevitable dump of Wells at the end of camp, while we read about how Bay’s rejuvenation just pushed him off the squad. It’s going to be annoying, and it’s going to happen because the Mariners put a value on how players “look” in spring training.

That doesn’t mean you have to. Ignore the BS that filters down over the next five weeks. Whatever you think about the players today, you should think that about them on April 1st. Spring training performances simply don’t matter. We’d all be better off if they just had the entire exhibition season in private. What matters is what happens when the games count. None of these games count, and none of what happens actually matters.

If there’s a Saunders or Ramirez situation that suggests that further evaluation is required, we’ll talk about it, as we did with those two last spring. Those are the exceptions that prove the rule, however. By and large, you can basically ignore everything that happens between now and Opening Day and you’ll be no worse off for having skipped all of it.

Cactus League Game 2.5 – Even More Padres

February 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 6 Comments 

Erasmo Ramirez vs. Freddy Garcia, 12:05

This is an important season for Erasmo Ramirez, as the diminutive Nicaraguan tries to build on a breakout 2012 and solidify the rotation. The projection systems see him taking a step back, as his K rate actually increased in his MLB stint last year. On the other hand, by some pitch fx-based metrics, his change-up was one of the most effective pitches in baseball last year. I’ve been a big Erasmo fan for a while, but he’s shouldering some pressure this year for the first time.
The M’s will also use James Paxton, Carter Capps and Tom Wilhelmsen today. Ryan Divish had a nice blog post today on the ‘next Carter Capps,’ RHP Carson Smith who pitched a 1-2-3 inning yesterday.

1: Seager 3B
2: Andino 2B
3: Ibanez RF
4: Morse LF
5: Saunders CF
6: Montero DH
7: Catricala 1B
8: Zunino C
9: Franklin SS
SP: Erasmooooo

Nice to see Zunino start, and it’s encouraging to see Nick Franklin get some work at SS.

Larry Stone’s got a great article on the people behind the scenes in M’s spring training here.

First Cactus League Gamethread

February 23, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 36 Comments 

Blake Beavan vs. Tyson Ross, 12:05pm

You may say, “This is exactly the same as yesterday’s game – the M’s vs. the Padres with absolutely nothing riding on the outcome.” There’s obviously more than a kernel of truth there, but today’s game should include top pitching prospects Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker. And while Blake Beavan doesn’t make for the most exciting starting pitcher, leave it to Hector Noesi to make you appreciate the steady, unassuming, quiet dignity that comes with replacement level (or, hopefully, a touch above).

The M’s line-up looks like this:
1: Franklin Gutierrez – CF
2: Casper Wells – RF
3: Jason Bay – LF
4: Justin Smoak – 1B
5: Kelly Shoppach –
6: Ronny Paulino – DH
7: Alex Liddi – 3B
8: Nick Franklin – 2B
9: Brad Miller – SS
SP: Beavan

Good to see the M’s two big middle-infield prospects playing together. The M’s haven’t officially said Franklin’s moving off of SS, but he’s played a lot of 2B in the Arizona Fall League, and Miller may have more arm strength. The fact that they’re lined up this way in the cactus league doesn’t mean much, but my guess is this is the way the M’s see them most of the time in 2013.

Tyson Ross, who the Padres picked up from Oakland, starts for San Diego today. He’s long been an intriguing pitcher to me, with very good velocity and a funky, short-stride delivery, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. The kind of trunk rotation that allows him to throw 95mph fastballs puts a lot of strain on his obliques. He’s the kind of pitcher who could put up an ‘out of nowhere’ good season, especially in Petco, but his command has to get better. He was legitimately bad last year in Oakland, but he’s got talent.

Hultzen and Walker are slated to pitch after Beavan, along with Bobby LaFromboise, Kameron Loe, Lucan Luetge and hopefully hard throwing sinkerballer Carson Smith.

Game Thread! It’s a Charity Game, but Hey, Baseball!

February 22, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 58 Comments 

I’m going to level with you. This is a game taking place before the regular cactus league ‘season’ and the pitching match-up pits Hector Noesi against Sean O’Sullivan. I’d love to see Dustin Ackley’s new swing against live pitching, but he’s not playing today. That said, if you tune your radio (710am) or smartphone/computer (mlb at-bat app) at 12:05 you’ll hear actual professional baseball today.

Here’s the line-up the M’s are trotting out against their hated rivals, the San Diego Padres:
1: Mike Saunders (CF)
2: Kyle Seager (3B)
3: Kendrys Morales (DH)
4: Michael Morse (RF)
5: Raul Ibanez (LF)
6: Jesus Montero (C)
7: Mike Jacobs (1B)
8: Robert Andino (SS)
9: Carlos Triunfel (2B)
SP: Hector Noesi

I know they used Eric Thames in RF fairly often last year, but somehow Mike Morse feels like even more of an anti-Ichiro – both physically and in terms of his overall game.

Mike Carp –> Boston

February 20, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 36 Comments 

The M’s had until Thursday to work out a deal for recently DFA’d 1B/LF Mike Carp, and they seemed to be taking their time because multiple teams were interested. Milwaukee’s rash of injuries made them a potential buyer, and Toronto looked likely given that they’re a contender with real problems at 1B. Tampa might have been interesting, Houston’s still just trying to accumulate warm bodies, and Boston had been interested in Carp for months. This morning, the M’s finally selected the highest bidder, and in return for sending Carp to the Red Sox the M’s get… a PTBNL or cash, according to Ken Rosenthal.

Sure, we don’t yet know who the PTBNL is, as that is the definition of the acronym PTBNL, but the ‘or cash’ thing really sets your sights lower. I obviously wasn’t a party to these negotiations, but it’s odd that the M’s weren’t able to get more for Carp – either by packaging him with Shawn Kelley or just on his own. Interest from multiple teams doesn’t mean *strong* interest from multiple teams and all, but it’s nearly impossible to argue that Carp’s designation didn’t affect his value. A team who wants Carp could, theoretically, offer little and hold firm, knowing that the M’s would lose him for nothing in a matter of days. Obviously, interest from more than one team – especially a team that doesn’t have an early waiver claim – should ameliorate that, but it’s hard to see evidence that it did in this case.

Boston gets a left-handed hitter without extreme platoon splits and projections in the 1-1.5 WAR range for 2013. The Red Sox have a LF who’s easily worse defensively than Carp, and a 1B/DH with a degenerative hip condition, so Carp figures to get some playing time.

Pitcher Health and Team Wins

February 18, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

Pitcher attrition is on everyone’s mind after the Mariners committed the GDP of a small country to right-handed pitcher/demigod Felix Hernandez. Two articles today examined pitcher injury from different angles.

The first is a statistical look at risk factors for pitcher injuries. You’ve probably all heard of the “Verducci Effect” wherein increasing the innings for a young pitcher portends ineffectiveness or injury, but this hypothesis turns out to be (oft-repeated) bunk.* Instead, the biggest predictor of injury is, erm, *injury*. That is, a trip to the DL in year 1 makes a pitcher much, much more likely to see the DL again in year 2. That’s not exactly a mind-blowing conclusion, particularly for fans of a team that employed Erik Bedard and Franklin Gutierrez at the same time. But the extent of that correlation is much stronger than I would’ve guessed. 43.7% of pitchers who were on the DL in one season went on the DL in the following season – but among those hurlers who WEREN’T injured in one year, less than 5% landed on the DL the next year. Call it the Erik Bedard principle: pitcher injuries cluster over time.

The pattern extends beyond just one year, of course. If a pitcher had any injury in some season (even if it didn’t require a DL trip), 55.6% of them had another injury 2 seasons later. But if those who made it through the season unscathed, only 2.7% were hurt two years later. 2.7%! That’s incredible, given what we normally think about the random, merciless arm of fate, dispassionately doling out labrum tears and tendon snaps to workhorses and DL-regulars alike and putting Frank Jobe’s descendents through college in perpetuity. You can probably guess where I’m going with this: the fact that Felix has been so durable in recent years really does have an impact on his chances of staying healthy for a while. It’s not a guarantee, and no one is counting on him to be completely healthy for seven years, but it’s the kind of data the M’s may have looked at before deciding that a contract of this magnitude and length made sense. That, and the fact that Felix is amazing.

The flip side is that the M’s have a few question marks in their rotation behind El Cartelua. Joe Saunders, Erasmo Ramirez and Hisashi Iwakuma have all made DL trips in the past two years (OK, Iwakuma’s took place in Japan and thus wasn’t an MLB DL trip per se). Extending that to any injury, and not just DL trips, picks up Blake Beavan as well, making four out of five. That’s somewhat worrying, though the impact is probably not as severe for the M’s considering the state of their high-minors pitching depth and based on what four-fifths of the rotation cost to acquire.

The second piece is Dave’s great article at Fangraphs about the White Sox ability to outperform their PECOTA projection.** One big piece of the puzzle appears to be, once again, pitcher injuries. Looking at DL databases going back 10 years, the White Sox have been the best in baseball at keeping their pitchers healthy. This means that they’ve needed fewer replacement-level fill-ins, and it’s allowed them to better the projection systems’ estimate of their playing time. Dave’s back-of-the-envelope estimate is that this, coupled with pitching coach Don Cooper’s excellent work with his pitchers, has added 2-3 wins *per year* to the Sox. They haven’t always been a great – or even good – team, but it really is shocking how few legitimately bad pitchers have suited up for Chicago, and how perfectly Mariners it is that Seattle managed to allow one of them to throw a perfect game against them.

Keeping pitchers healthy, or at least healthier than the competition, has meant a lot to the White Sox. It’s also something the M’s front office talked about when Jack Zduriencik was hired in 2009. So how’ve they done? Fairly well, actually. The M’s lost three players to the DL in 2012 – Ramirez, Charlie Furbush and George Sherrill. Ramirez and Furbush were on for relatively minor things, and pitched effectively after returning. Sherrill played a grand total of 5 minutes in an M’s uniform, and, technically, his second stint in Seattle ended before spring training did. In 2011, the M’s had six members of the 40-man hit the DL, the same number they had in 2011. Sure, this doesn’t prove much, as they had Erik Bedard in 2010-11 and not in 2012, but they lost very few starts to the DL in 2012, and it’s possible that the organization’s coaching and strength/conditioning/flexibility group has had a hand in that. The cynic would argue that the M’s were simply lucky in 2012, and that regression to the mean (along with the injury history stuff I mentioned earlier) indicates that the M’s are likely to fare worse than they did last year. But as the White Sox example shows, you can’t simply assume that every team regresses towards league average. There is skill mixed in with luck,*** and good teams are working very hard to identify and apply the skill portion of this equation.

* – in fact, Carleton’s model showed that a large increase in batters faced was correlated with a *lower* risk of injury in the next two seasons.
** – For what it’s worth, the M’s PECOTA projection is the most optimistic I’ve seen, pegging them just barely under .500 and within the margin of error not only of the Athletics, but of the Rangers as well.
*** – Holy crap, Texas. Kansas City’s been famous for poor handling of pitchers, but seriously, Texas’ 10 year history is mind-blowing. I understand that Thoracic Outlet Syndrome could be credibly renamed Texas Rangers’ disease. Also, as good as the White Sox have been, they stumbled in 2012, losing six pitchers to the DL, including three starters – one for the year (Danks) and one twice (Floyd).

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