The Next Nine Days

Dave · April 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’m going to make two statements about the team that are both true, even though they might seem contradictory:

1. It is too early to make any rash judgments about the quality of the team based on the first 11 games of the season.

2. The Mariners might be in trouble.

A 4-7 start isn’t the end of the world. Losing a series to the Astros doesn’t prove that the team is terrible. Michael Saunders getting injured isn’t a death blow for the franchise.

However, things are going wrong for the Mariners at the wrong time. Saunders is definitely out for the next few weeks, and Michael Morse is out for at least a few days, maybe longer. The Mariners are going to spend the next few days starting both Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, and they’re not going to have anything resembling a real bench.

And their next nine games are against the two best teams — in my view, anyway — in the American League, and Felix is only going to start one of those nine games. This could get ugly.

The Tigers and Rangers are good teams. Let’s just say, for sake of argument, that they’re both .575 clubs, which translates to about 93 wins per full season. And maybe you were optimistic about the Mariners heading into the season, and you thought they were a .500 team. Now, though, you’re taking away Saunders and replacing him with Endy Chavez, and you’re taking away Morse and replacing him with no one. If you think those guys are both average players — it would be hard to think the Mariners were a .500 team and that both of those guys were below average — than taking them off the roster would push the team down to a .475 club, or somewhere in that range. The fact that they’re playing short-handed since Morse isn’t going on the DL is another bump down, so maybe the roster until he returns is more like a .470 club, since they have no flexibility and can’t play the match-ups with this roster.

Now, take into account that the .470 projection includes Felix throwing about 16% of the team’s innings. Over the next nine games, he’s probably going to throw about 8% of the team’s innings, so you have to move the needle down even more. With Aaron Harang or Blake Beavan filling the space, now you’re closer to a .450 club.

What are the expected outcomes when a .450 club plays nine games against a .575 club? You don’t just take the winning percentages for each team, since those are against a broad spectrum of clubs. Good teams beat bad teams more than the average, so we can use a mathematical tool called log5 to estimate the outcomes of that kind of match-up. And log5 says a that a .575 club would beat a .450 club 62.3% of the time, which rounds out to a 3-6 expected record over the next week and a half. In other words, if these estimates held, the Mariners would go to Houston on April 22nd with a 7-13 record in their first 20 games.

Baseball is a weird game. Maybe the Rangers fall on their face and the M’s take the next three and this all looks moot by Monday. We just saw the Astros pound the Mariners, and the Mariners are almost certainly a better team than the Astros. Maybe this nine game stretch won’t turn out so bad.

But, it’s not ridiculous to suggest that the Mariners could easily go 1-8 or 2-7 during this stretch either. This is a rough part of the schedule, and the Mariners are bringing a rubber knife to a gun fight. Attendance is already setting record lows, and frustration is starting to build with the fan base once again. The Mariners spent a lot of time during the spring selling hope, based mostly on the import of a few guys who could hit home runs and meaningless spring training numbers. That hope is taking a beating right now, and given what’s coming up in the next 10 days, it might get extinguished completely.

It is early, but sometimes, the story of the season is written early on. For a team with a veteran roster full of guys on one year contracts, the Mariners don’t have six months to let things get sorted out. The Mariners need to start putting some wins on the board, but now they’re going to have to get those wins with the end of the roster going up against the likes of Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander. Good luck.

Comments

37 Responses to “The Next Nine Days”

  1. greentunic on April 12th, 2013 2:13 pm

    Ya watching Ibanez miss a simple fly ball and strike out at the most crucial times did little to console me for the loss of our two OF.

    Ackley, Montero, Smoak need to step it up. If none of these top prospects gets close to even league average I have to believe something is fundamentally wrong with the Ms development.

  2. Bodhizefa on April 12th, 2013 2:20 pm

    How much should we worry about Morse playing through pain? Can he still be productive?

    And I agree with the first poster. It’s time for the kids to step up or be sent down for someone who can. Ackley, Smoak, and Montero (or at least two of the three) absolutely have to start hitting or this franchise has been spinning its wheels for the past five years.

  3. Bodhizefa on April 12th, 2013 2:21 pm

    And yes, I would count myself amongst the frustrated fan base. Our hopes have been held on the shoulders of our young talent, and none of the primo prospects are panning out at all.

  4. fcb on April 12th, 2013 2:25 pm

    I am looking forward to your end of the year post on who the Mariners are likely to target to replace Z and Wedge in the off-season. Never too early to get going on a rough draft…

  5. IdahoFan on April 12th, 2013 2:26 pm

    Dave, would you write a bullet point on your outlook for Seager, Ackley, Montero, and Smoak. If they all fail, won’t that lead to regime change?

  6. globalalpha on April 12th, 2013 2:36 pm

    There’s a big difference between a .500 team and a .450 team. That’s 8 wins over a full season. No question the Mariners are worse off for the reasons you cite, but your estimate seems quite ad hoc. Do you really think Saunders over Chavez, Morse gone for 33-50% of the time, and another half of Felix adds up to 8 WAR? Seems a bit farfetched to me.

  7. stevemotivateir on April 12th, 2013 2:41 pm

    Worst case scenario, all hell breaks loose, and the Mariners find themselves in a ridiculous hole they can’t crawl out of. Ok, who takes the blame?

    Maybe this kind of thing is what the organization needs to recognize the gambling and bad decisions we’ve see from both Z and Wedge hasn’t worked. To see that it’s in the best interest of the team to replace them with people who are more competent. Who to replace them with is another discussion.

    This isn’t about a couple of questionable moves this offseason. It’s about the collective amount of bad moves and decisions that have failed repeatedly.

    People will be quick to point out ‘the farm’. I’m tired of that excuse. The minor league depth appears decent overall, but we have a serious lack of outfield talent and it’s been that way for years. It hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. And more credit should be given to the scouts who do the ground work for drafting, than for Jack. Which sadly reminds me that we lost Engle.

    What we’re seeing right now, and will likely see, shouldn’t be a huge surprise. But I’d love to hear the excuses when someone asks Wedge or Z how they got into this mess, or their thoughts on the forewarning(s) from the sabermetric community.

  8. ChrisK on April 12th, 2013 2:58 pm

    And May doesn’t get any easier, with 17 of 26 games on the road…

  9. cgidari on April 12th, 2013 3:09 pm

    Gotta agree with greentunic. How is possible that every touted position prospect we’ve had lately has completely fizzled out in the majors? At some point you have to start questioning the process rather than just the players. Who is the last hitter from our system that actually became a legitimate hitter for us?

  10. alan smithee on April 12th, 2013 3:14 pm

    Its a lineup based around solo home runs. You don’t get people on base you wont score runs and its a thing they need to address on a fundemental level. Its clear they don’t preach it in the minors and they don’t accumulate it in other ways. The pitching depth is not strong either. Field management is weak. Its a team in serious trouble.

  11. Kyle in Illinois on April 12th, 2013 3:16 pm

    We’re actually scheduled to miss Verlander. Hooray for mildly positive news.

  12. amnizu on April 12th, 2013 3:29 pm

    While I agree with Dave’s pessimism I don’t think this should be a shock to any who follows this team. We knew this team was bad heading into spring training, we knew it got worse afterwards due to decisions to keep Bay, Ibanez and bring Beavan to the big leagues.

    Maybe the M’s are 10 games under after April and play 500 ball from there. That is still right where the predictions expected this team to be. Frustrating but expected.

  13. Jake on April 12th, 2013 3:34 pm

    Chavez, Bay, Moralez, Raul, Smoak, Seager, Shoppach, Ackley, Ryan is your lineup tonight.

    I don’t even know what to say.

    At least it’s not 1975 anymore.

  14. groundzero55 on April 12th, 2013 3:35 pm

    Maybe. Verlander’s third highest ERA against team over the last three years is the Mariners. Only Tampa Bay and Cleveland have been tougher on him.

  15. Westside guy on April 12th, 2013 3:43 pm

    Steve said everything I feel right now, so – me too! :-D

    Dayton Moore has consistently maintained a top-tier farm system, maybe even better than Seattle’s. That’s simply not enough for a GM. Z is better than Bavasi; but that’s what’s called damning with faint praise.

    And the HowChuck blame doesn’t entirely play either – Armstrong, at least, was here for 1995 and 2001, not just the past decade. I believe Lincoln was here for 2001, at least.

  16. Milendriel on April 12th, 2013 3:51 pm

    The decrepit former/local player fetish is almost certainly HowChuck’s fault, though, and the one reason I can’t dismiss the “Winning is not their top priority” argument out of hand.

    As for Z, I wouldn’t blame anyone who wants him gone at this point, but I give him half a pass for Smoak/Montero’s lack of development because the Mariners didn’t draft them. For me, the Ackley/Zunino/Walker/Hultzen/Paxton crop is the group that is make-or-break for him.

  17. absolutsyd on April 12th, 2013 4:02 pm

    I hope they lose the next 10 games, or however it takes for managment to fire Wedge and give up on the vetrens. Bring up Zunino, Miller, the young pitchers, whoever and watch them go out and have fun. The team might not suck as much as it has looked the last three days, but they sure aren’t very good.

  18. RaoulDuke37 on April 12th, 2013 4:08 pm

    Maybe we can chalk up the Raul signing to poor timing.

    I can understand the Morse trade (he plays, whereas Jaso wouldn’t).

    Beaven/Harang over Garland?
    Bay/Chavez over Wells?

    I don’t know. Once again, it’s getting hard to give a shit.

  19. groundzero55 on April 12th, 2013 4:29 pm

    Beavan/Harang over Garland is splitting hairs. There were better options out there, yet for whatever reason the money wasn’t spent. That doesn’t fall on Wedge.

    Bay/Ibanez over Wells falls almost totally on Wedge. The manager makes the call on who makes the team out of spring training. And we know about his love for veteran grit.

  20. rjc on April 12th, 2013 4:50 pm

    When does Felix pitch next? I would like to get tickets because watching him pitch is the only reasonable time to go to Safeco.

  21. TheKidWouldGo on April 12th, 2013 5:19 pm

    I like Casper Wells, and given the recent developments (Saunders & Morse) it seems pretty inauspicious timing to have had the Jay’s pick him up the day before our outfield began to fall apart. However, it really seems like we’re collectively forgetting that Wells didn’t do much for the Mariners last season (when he was allowed to play, of course), nor was he really stellar in spring training – although Ackley and Montero were… so that predictive variable can be taken with a big tablespoon of salt.

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but at this point, while I too would like to see Wells getting some starts over the next 15 days (and hopefully no more), I’m willing to accept that things may work out no worse without Wells on the roster. And who knows, now that he’s getting a chance on the Mariner’s quad-A farm team, maybe Chavez will show some good stuff?

  22. PackBob on April 12th, 2013 5:34 pm

    The Mariners brought this on themselves, so I can’t muster much sympathy. After all the heavy emphasis by Wedge on the importance of proper veteran influence on the young guys, it sure is hard to see just what those benefits have been.

  23. henryv on April 12th, 2013 5:35 pm

    The Seattle Mariners have become a comedy of errors. This team has 5 players who can’t play in the field reliably. Three of them have no place doing anything more than DH’ing. I think that the M’s decided that rather than having one real DH, they would have 4 that were mediocre to shitty, and that would work.

    At this point, all you can do is laugh, and hope that Felix doesn’t lose hope, and ask for a trade eventually. Lose Felix, and we become the Pittsburgh Pirates circa 1993, if not worse.

  24. Paul B on April 12th, 2013 5:38 pm

    Maybe there’s some more old guys around. What’s Miguel Cairo doing nowadays?

  25. Jinbo on April 12th, 2013 5:52 pm

    What the M’s needs is to send Justin “A sack of balls” Smoak to AAA, and let Morales field 1B so Raul can take the DH and we don’t have to see him “Ebanezing” in LF.

    Morales was an decently good 1st baseman, better than Smoak in UZR anyway, plus he can hit.

    That will leave us only have to put Bay in LF and Chavez in RF until Saunders and Morse are back. Chavez in RF might not be as bad as it sounds– Smoak bats .194/.293/.194 in 11 games and 41PA and it is hard for Chavez to hit worse than that.

  26. Snuffy on April 12th, 2013 5:59 pm

    The M’s were not expected to finish over Tex, LAA or Oak. What happens this year is best looked at through a prism that portends a real competitive team in 2 or 3 years. Fillers like Raul & Bay are a false irritant. They provide a bridge to allow minor league hitters to develop… except, other than Zunio, offensive potential is generally pretty lacking in the minors. The real problem is Ackley, Montero, Smoak & Seager, none of whom is showing much development. Frankly, they look awful. Anybody who expected B. Ryan to hit, even a little, is crazy. He likely never will. We need to see if Morales and Morse are worth signing beyond this year. Beavan is useful filler if he can go 6IP, otherwise he’s a drag. Harang is just stop-gap.
    Worse… check out the stands. Attendance is awful now and will get even worse. The M’s are in a death spiral and unless Ackley, Montero, Smoak & Seager can turn it around, it will be that way for years to come. The fans can take present failure if there is future hope… looks damn bleak at this point.

  27. dantheman on April 12th, 2013 6:09 pm

    “And the HowChuck blame doesn’t entirely play either – Armstrong, at least, was here for 1995 and 2001, not just the past decade. I believe Lincoln was here for 2001, at least.”

    You have got to be kidding. Chuck was the right hand man for Argyros and has far more experience running terrible ballclubs than good ones. Why would you assume he was responsible for ’95 and ’01? Something is fundamentally wrong with this organization and it starts with Chuck and Howard.

  28. Jinbo on April 12th, 2013 6:13 pm

    >Snuffy

    yes, but we have been hearing that for 3 years

    Seager somewhat earned his place with this team last year and Ackley just changed the swinging during the off season, I would say these two deserve some more time on the field– although it might be just some false hope.

    As for Montero, he just looks lost in the box–swing and miss on literally everything– this is not how you raise a prospect; being devastated in major league level wont let them learn anything, he and Smoak are the two really need some time in Tacoma to work things out– they NEVER have any remarkable record in AAA, remember?

    btw, I don’t care about how Justin “Worst 1200PA in the past 20 years” Smoak will progress, he just doesn’t deserve a starting line-up spot, replace.

  29. miscreant on April 12th, 2013 6:27 pm

    Did anyone really believe that this 2013 season would be the year that some “mojo” happened and the Mariners would leap frog over LA and Texas?

    They brought in old injury prone one dimensional players like Morse and Morales. The Mariners spent more time and effort fixing up Safeco than they did on the team.

    That’s like taking a 1971 Ford Pinto, putting thousand dollar rims on it and hoping it will win at the quarter mile and not explode.

  30. matthew on April 12th, 2013 6:43 pm

    I was thinking this last week. That early schedule is a nightmare. I worry we could lose Jack Z and the manager within the next few weeks.

    I think that would be a terrible mistake. Especially if someone came in with a win now attitude, trading away all of our young talent for some overpriced, over the hill players.

  31. MrZDevotee on April 12th, 2013 7:20 pm

    Oh man, Dave. Thanks a lot… This post reads like the part of Ol Yeller where he has to shoot his dog.

    Or Where the Red Fearn Grows when the one dog stops trying to live when the first one dies. And just curls up on its grave.

    I’m in tears here. Let’s all try to be wrong about the next 9 days. Pretty please.

  32. Westside guy on April 12th, 2013 11:22 pm

    On second thought… maybe we could face Darvish a few more times, pretty please?

  33. SeattleNative57 on April 13th, 2013 3:22 am

    Heard Condor on the radio today commenting on his run-in with the stationary right field wall. He made some statements like he’s “always gonna go hard to make a play” and that he’d “do the same thing again if he had the chance”. Then he really startled me when he said something like, “I’m not going to change the way I play”. I realize he’s a professional and his ego is certainly speaking. On this team there is no place for heroes. The players on this team could easily injure themselves just taking the field. Michael Saunders needs to realize that “taking one for the team” on this team, is not a good idea. He had been one of our early bright spots, playing above replacement. And to be injured is worse than below replacement, because he’s nothing at all, zilch, nada, less than zero production. Hopefully some of our “veteran leadership” takes him aside and schools him on the virtue of playing smarter. We cannot afford injured starters. Especially running into walls to make a play. Better to stay in the game, on the field, and play the carom than to run through the wall. Play smart, stay healthy. This is not the time to be a hero.

  34. stevemotivateir on April 13th, 2013 6:41 am

    You have got to be kidding. Chuck was the right hand man for Argyros and has far more experience running terrible ballclubs than good ones. Why would you assume he was responsible for ’95 and ’01? Something is fundamentally wrong with this organization and it starts with Chuck and Howard.

    When people like Chuck and Howard are hired, it’s usually a scenario where they’re replacing somebody who wasn’t getting the job done. How would you describe the state of the Mariners when they were brought in? We had a new ownership group coming in, but was the team in good shape at that time?

    It wasn’t just ’95 and ’01 that were good. They were good in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2009 as well. You can argue about how good they actually were, but they had winning records and didn’t look like a train wreck.

    Chuck and Howard have made mistakes. Everybody in the business this long has. But suggesting they’re the root of the problem is ridiculous. As Westy noted, they brought in the personal that covered nearly all of the winning seasons the franchise has seen. That doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve some blame for the bad years, but you can’t suggest the team can’t be successful with them either.

    If this season shows regression, do you think they’ll move forward with Jack and Eric? I don’t. Too early to really comment on that much, but I would guess both are in the hot-seat.

  35. evolvingcaveman on April 15th, 2013 9:16 am

    2-1 with 6 games to go. Hultzen/Erasmo will eventualy solidify our rotation it’s the hitting that’s scary still. Perhaps Wedge will get enough at bats for Bay/Ibanez/Andino early here that when the team is back healthy he will actually use them as bench players or pinch hit for them when called for, not force them into the lineup. Let seager/smoak/ackley (hopefully saunders) play everyday and maybe a minor league hitter steps up enough to be useful as the season goes on.

  36. evolvingcaveman on April 19th, 2013 11:44 am

    3-3 with three games to go. Still can’t score more then two runs a game and our bottom three starters are now pitching in Texas. This could go either way.
    I think even the original Bay supporters would have to be ok cutting ties with him at this point. I like Endy but would take a waiver wire Wells as the righty.

  37. evolvingcaveman on April 21st, 2013 5:12 pm

    3-6 over those nine games but trending toward the horrible after the sweep. Strikeouts are crazy high and two runs seems to be our ceiling. Seager’s the only bright spot. 7-12 yuck.

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