Dipoto’s Shake-up

marc w · October 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Technically, today’s move to part ways with manager Lloyd McClendon has to be the least-shocking decision new GM Jerry Dipoto will face, but it had some competition: the M’s are also in the market for a new player development coordinator following Chris Gwynn’s resignation. Given the cirumstances of his departure from Anaheim, that Dipoto would want to *pick his own manager* seemed like a foregone conclusion, and may have been a condition of his accepting the job in Seattle. That, of course, tends to make the Dipoto/McClendon “meetings” of the past week or so look like an odd form of theater than a real job interview. Dipoto said today that McClendon didn’t share his philosophy, which seemed fairly obvious, but perhaps it’s nice to at least pretend there was some sort of appeals process before Dipoto went and hired someone he knew and trusted.

At this point, most of the speculation falls on Tim Bogar, the Rangers’ interim manager in 2014 and a finalist for both the Rangers job (he lost out to Jeff Bannister) and Tampa (where he lost to fellow Rangers-finalist, Kevin Cash). After failing to land either job, Dipoto hired him as an assistant GM. Dipoto mentioned that he’s got a short-list of managerial candidates, but I’d imagine that other candidates might have to really impress for him to pass over the known quantity in Bogar. Of course, that was the operating assumption in Texas, but Jeff Bannister flew over the bar and has the Rangers very close to the ALCS.

I understand that McClendon wasn’t a fantastic tactical manager, and that his chances of staying in under Dipoto were essentially zero, but we need to remember that judging managers is a difficult endeavor – witness Matt Williams’ fall from grace as the first defending “manager of the year” to get canned the year following. McClendon’s 2014 squad seemed to come out of nowhere, but they were 4 games below their pythagorean record. This year’s club finished two games *ahead* of their pythag, which I think underscores how limited a tool it is to understand managers. Ultimately, I think the problem was just how few players seemed to really step forward and make the leap under his tutelage. That sounds damning and all, and I don’t really mean it to. It’s the job of the GM to get players who will develop with proper instruction or who are good enough not to need further development. There is a hell of a lot of blame to go around for Dustin Ackley’s Mariners tenure, and I think McClendon should be allocated less than 1/1000th of it. But all the same, seeing Ackley slug .654 with New York was a good (if statistically unfair) reminder that Seattle wasn’t getting him to tap into his potential. The same could be said for Chris Taylor, the Ketel Marte of 2014, or, obviously, of Mike Zunino. I think the bulk of the blame there goes to the GM and the Player Development head, but you’d like your major league field staff to have some influence, too.

Pretty much every club in the playoffs had someone who’d struggled mightily *in the majors* take a large step forward this year. The Rangers got command-challenged Jake Diekman, who was walking 6 per 9 and had an ERA of 5.85 on the worst team in baseball, and after some Mike Madduxing, he’s pitching in high-leverage situations in the playoffs. Rougned Odor’s 2nd half looks nothing like his first – after a year and a half of playing like a perfectly fine (and very young) contact-and-defense 2B, Odor is showing some remarkable power. That would’ve been nice. JA Happ left the M’s and turned into a death-dealing strikeout pitcher after a mechanical tweak from Ray Searage. Delino DeShields was a Rule 5 pick this year, and is batting leadoff in the playoffs. Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, etc. The M’s didn’t have that, as nice as Nelson Cruz’s non-decline was.

And again, more of the blame for that might properly go to Gwynn, who was responsible for a minor league system that utterly collapsed this year. Clinton was one of the worst teams in recent MiLB history, and Jackson and Tacoma were both developmental black holes for pitchers. Tacoma, who play in the closest thing the PCL has to a pitcher’s park, actually led the PCL in HRs-allowed, and watched guys like Jordan Pries take a step back after solid 2014 campaigns. Jackson had by far the worst ERA in the Southern League, and while their FIP was slightly better, they couldn’t keep their team in games. Edwin Diaz’s introduction to AA wasn’t great, but he fared better in 2015 than Alex Jackson and DJ Peterson. While the M’s Jackson and LHP Luiz Gohara remain on the NWL’s all-prospect team, they are there despite their 2015 seasons, not because of them. Everyone agrees that the M’s have some high-ceiling talent in the org, and everyone agrees they underperformed. Moving on from Gwynn was inevitable.

Again, there’s an obvious candidate waiting in the wings, Dipoto’s Player Development guy in Anaheim, Scott Servais. Servais worked in Texas for many years, where he helped develop some of the players who led the Rangers to the pennant a few years back. That said, his tenure with the Angels wasn’t as rosy, as prospects from Kaleb Cowart to Hunter Green to Taylor Featherston to Alex Yarbrough have fallen a bit short of expectations (or, in Green’s case, struggled to stay healthy). That may not be Servais’ fault, but it’s a cautionary note after the success he had with Texas. As hard as it is to gauge a manager’s success, it’s nearly as hard in player development. The responsibility is shared between a small army of minor league coaches and instructors, and physical and mental trainers probably play a huge role as well. But you look at Houston and St. Louis and you know that it isn’t just a crapshoot. The M’s have *needed* a young core to develop and they’ve cycled through a few of them without much success. Every year, it looks like they have a bit of depth in the minors, and every year, that talent seems to take a step back just when the M’s need it. I have no idea how much responsibility Chris Gwynn owns for that, but I’m glad we can blame someone else next year.


32 Responses to “Dipoto’s Shake-up”

  1. Westside guy on October 9th, 2015 3:44 pm

    I’m of the opinion that there’s not a whole lot a manager can do to win a game, but there are many ways he can help lose now – and the team seemed (both last year and this year) prone to boneheaded baserunning, questionable “defensive” substitutions, and the like.

    But, in the end, those criticisms come down to disagreements regarding baseball philosophy. What I see as stupid baselining, an old-school guy might see as being aggressive on the base paths. What I see as a guy who shouldn’t be in right field for 140 games, an old school guy sees as a big bat who catches the balls he’s expected to catch (defense doesn’t matter, basically). Lloyd was old school, I am not – and thankfully, it appears Dipoto is not old school either. He’s not a stat-head – but he values stats and is at least willing to consider that maybe, just maybe, the old wisdom may not always be quite as wise as some think.

    I’ll be curious to hear who he picks.

    By the way, I liked Dipoto’s quote today – “Through the course of a baseball game, it is not all about the data you’re provided and it’s not all about what you’re seeing with your eyes. It’s somewhere in-between.”

  2. bluemoonking on October 9th, 2015 5:15 pm

    Mac is a nice guy but this “old school” stuff didn’t make sense when the successful teams were playing a different game. The game and players have changed in the last 10 years. He was Jack’s Z’s manager. And probably did things Jack’s way and if he didn’t then there was no excuse.

    As for Gwynn and the rest, they were Jack’s too. With player development non-existant, proven by short samples by Happ and Ackley, their positions had to be tenative even if Jack was not fired.

    You take no joy in someone losing their jobs, but I am hopfull of th moves Jerry D. has made so far. I fully expect Bogar and Servais to join the mariners soon.

  3. Longgeorge1 on October 9th, 2015 5:48 pm

    “Old school – New School” Players need to perform. What did old school have to do with Cano, Paxton and Kuma being injured? Why have players like Happ, Denorfia, Jackson, Smoak and Morris all made contributions to playoff teams and could not do squat with the M’s? Where was the coach to make the slight mechanical adjustment to Happ? Cruz is not the Gold Glove right fielder by any means, but I have seen him get to the World Series and if not for some crazy heroics even his flawed play could have helped the Rangers to a title. Mac had the players Z gave him.
    The key to the M’s improving is player development. Turn Zunino into reasonable major league hitter. The minor league system needs to be cleaned out. Players need to learn how to play. I am tired of watching guys blossom after leaving here, The list is long. A “Mariner” philosophy needs to be developed. Whether we turn into the see more pitches than anyone Cubs or start swinging in the on deck circle Royals is irrelevant, if players can’t hit catch and pitch. This team needs athletes. It is not a base running error to get thrown out trying to score from second on a routine OF single. It is a lack of speed. My entire rant would take forever. I am sorry. I am tired of this “if we had a ‘new school’ manager. We need better players out of our farm system.

  4. ck on October 9th, 2015 6:12 pm

    So far, so good…The M’s new GM Dipoto gives fans a chance to feel optimistic. A Plan will be in place to improve the entire system, which will eventually consistently improve the Major league 25. Meanwhile, Mr. Dipoto will have to make trades to get his desired, “…more athletic outfielders…” etc.
    Cust, Pequero, Wilkerson, Morse, Ibanez, Weeks et al need not apply.

  5. bongo on October 9th, 2015 9:01 pm

    I blame JackZ for the 2015 fiasco more than Lloyd. There were obvious problems with the roster that should have been fixed in June if not earlier. Guti, Montero and Marte were destroying PCL pitching while Bloomquist, Weeks, etc. clogged up the roster. Then there was Rodney and the bullpen of doom. All together, I really believe that a competent GM could have provided Lloyd with a way better roster and this team could have finished 5-10 games better.

  6. Westside guy on October 9th, 2015 9:23 pm

    Clearly, Dipoto’s first order of business shouldn’t be pursuing a new manager – he should just acquire more Seagers.

    (How about that Corey?)

  7. Longgeorge1 on October 9th, 2015 10:02 pm

    Westy- Data is just data until a human reads it and interprets it. We agree.
    No franchise, not the Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers can survive on player acquisition. Grow your own. Fix weakness by trading from strength and then you can fill in a blank or two with free agents. It is likely in two or three years Cruz and Cano will be albatrosses.

  8. Breadbaker on October 9th, 2015 11:52 pm

    There has long been a Mariner philosophy. It has been “you are likely to only see one good pitch in an at-bat and you must swing at it even if you personally can’t handle that pitch and are facing a 2-0 count where a walk would be as valuable as a hit.” It’s a damn stupid philosophy, but it’s pretty much what this club has done since about 2004.

  9. Breadbaker on October 9th, 2015 11:52 pm

    There has long been a Mariner philosophy. It has been “you are likely to only see one good pitch in an at-bat and you must swing at it even if you personally can’t handle that pitch and are facing a 2-0 count where a walk would be as valuable as a hit.” It’s a damn stupid philosophy, but it’s pretty much what this club has done since about 2004.

  10. LongDistance on October 10th, 2015 1:54 am

    Lloyd’s gone. The “differing philosophies” explanation is smoke. He was Jack’s guy, running Jack’s team in ways designed to make it seem Jack had made good decisions. Which, just to be fair, wasn’t an unfair situation. Baseball.

    Which means we’re now going to get a manager who’s going to run things in such a way that makes Dipoto’s hiring make sense. Which means, obviously, whatever in the Z brigade that doesn’t perform quickly, will be quickly gone.

    As for AAA on down, it’s going to be way more complicated. Me, I don’t kind of really give a rip about what, for example, High A does in terms of the season. Although it’s fun for the locals. But not seeing more names popping up, more regularly, over the past few years rather than acquisition by trades… well, that says what it says. Which, obviously, isn’t just me saying it here. So Gwynn’s gone, as well as a few other coaches and scouts.

    On a side note, and just for the fun of it, when it comes to the idea that you are likely to only see one good pitch in an at bat. Well, actually, that’s sort of true if your definition of “one good pitch”, from a batter’s point of view (it certainly wouldn’t be the pitcher’s point of view because for him, it’s a successful setup pitch or his nastiest out pitch), is that one hittable pitch. I don’t know why a good pitch would be defined as something you can’t handle. Everything else you’re going to see is either teasing, misleading, or downright nasty. As for a good pitch, i.e. a strike, coming on 2-0, that could be expected, so the batter will just guess where he thinks it’ll be and loads up. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think swing, on 2-0, if it even only looks like a good pitch. I know it’s unprovable, but I think it’s a case of them misjudging, than that they can’t hit the ball. That’s why I hope Edgar stays on. His help goes way beyond simple mechanics.

  11. Notfromboise on October 10th, 2015 4:24 am

    I think Bongo brings up a good point in that Lloyd wasn’t terribly helped out by the bullpen. In 162 games this year the team basically proved it didnt have anyone capable of getting 3 outs in the 9th inning. Everyone we put in that role did a bad Rodney impression.

    I’d be pleased to see us target a legit closer fiercely in the offseason. I like Carson Smith as a setup, I love a healthy Furbush as a LOOGY. I can live with D-Far as our project (hey, he was a passable closer a year plus ago in limited time). The Bartender was born to be a middle reliever, let him duke that out with Elias and Montgomery in the spring. I’d like to upgrade on Beimel far more than rely on him to bounce back. And I didnt see any of our September callups i’d even charitably call ‘promising’.
    Open the purse strings and lets get a closer.

    Yeah, we need people who can actual catch fly balls while simultaneously hitting .250+… And we need to figure out what we are doing on first base/DH with Trumbo (who ended the season well), Morrison (who didnt…), and Montero. And I’m actually certain Scott Servais himself could hit over .180 playing the 2.

    Just look at all the question marks in KC. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s Davis and Co. in the pen. You pair Carson Smith and Furbush/Beimel with a real closer, and it shortens the game to 7 innings. There was a *lot* of games we didnt win this year that we led after 7. Just sayin. 😉

  12. Notfromboise on October 10th, 2015 4:57 am

    One other thought:

    I’d love to see Dipoto focus on unique assets whenever possible. Tangible quality thats not easily replaceable.

    For example : The unique mindset of a guy who can close down the 9th is worth paying for. You can’t get a similar result from a couple young kids or journeymen.

    On the flipside, running out a couple outfielders in platoon situations (Miller, Smith, Guti) can produce solid overall numbers at a fraction of the price nabbing Justin Upton and Josh Hamilton (two preseason targets) at a combined 40mil a year would run..

    Closer, Catcher, Second Base, Third Base.. Some things you can’t platoon. We paid handsomely to lock up Seager and Cano. And I support both decisions. I’m hoping this offseason we save money where we need to in order to spend it where we have to.

  13. BackseatGM on October 10th, 2015 10:54 am

    I’m not a Jack Z. apologist but when the same players who made up the best bullpen in baseball morph into one of the worst pens in baseball it’s the GM’s fault?

  14. Westside guy on October 10th, 2015 12:15 pm

    BackseatGM – nope. Just as the previous bullpen could not have been realistically expected to be as good as it was (not one relief pitcher had an off season, and even the one who didn’t project to be good – Beimel – performed well), this season’s complete simultaneous meltdown by many of the same players was not the GM’s fault.

    Unless you want to blame him for expecting the bullpen to be just as good as the previous year… but a lot of pundits made the same mistake.

    I’ll also note that management of the pitchers was the one thing I thought Lloyd McLendon did pretty well overall.

  15. maqman on October 11th, 2015 4:57 am

    Unfortunately GMZ and Lloyd were “old school” and incapable of graduating but they fit the perceived needs of Lincoln and the owners, who grew up in the old school game. If they stick to their commitment to let GM Jerry make all the baseball decisions the team has a realistic chance of success.

  16. Woodcutta on October 11th, 2015 2:20 pm

    Could someone explain to me how McClendon managed the pitchers well? I watched many games where he refused to warm someone up when the pitcher in the game was all over the place. When he finally got a pitcher up in the bullpen the game was already tied or they were behind. There were times he left starters in too long and took them out too soon. Was I watching a different team?

  17. ivan on October 11th, 2015 4:49 pm

    One reason I’m glad to see Lloyd gone is stolen bases. The Mariners stole 69 bases as a team for the season, and were caught 45 times. I don’t know how many of the caught stealings were pickoffs.

    If I had a dollar for each time I heard Rizzs or Sims or Blowers say, every time a Mariner reached base, “Let’s see if they put the game in motion,” I’d buy drinks for everybody. I’d be sitting there thinking “No, you dumb b——d. Don’t even think about it.”

    Why were they stealing at all, if 60 percent was all they could manage? Other than Miller (13 for 17), exactly zero players had a decent enough percentage to even bother sending them.

    This is not “old school,” “new school,” or any other school. This is just plain dumb managing. Plenty of managers 40, 50, 60 years ago rarely stole if they had slow teams.

    It’s a small thing, but it jumped out at me.

  18. Westside guy on October 11th, 2015 5:02 pm

    Woodcutta, you are talking about in-game strategy while I was referring to managing the pitchers from a standpoint of trying to keep them healthy long term. I liked the fact that, in my opinion, he didn’t generally push them – for example he took Felix out when Felix looked tired, regardless of what Felix wanted to do. He, or perhaps the org, also cut back on Felix’s September workload both of the past two seasons. I feel like he took that approach for other pitchers as well… but with Felix it was pretty obvious.

    It just seemed to me he erred on the side of caution when it came to a pitcher’s health – something that should be obvious but is not always given much thought to by baseball men.

  19. eponymous coward on October 11th, 2015 8:44 pm

    One reason I’m glad to see Lloyd gone is stolen bases. The Mariners stole 69 bases as a team for the season, and were caught 45 times. I don’t know how many of the caught stealings were pickoffs.

    This, this, this, this, this.

    And the only reason the 2014 was any appreciably better was James Jones was 27 for 28 on SBs- the 2014 team minus Jones was 69 SBs, 41 CS.

  20. Longgeorge1 on October 12th, 2015 1:13 pm

    I have just read in the paper that Dipoto is starting to clean house in the minors.
    While only time will tell if the new guys are better than the old I certainly am encouraged.
    It doesn’t matter how you measure or interpret data if the guy at the plate can’t hit, the guy on base can’t run, the fielder can’t catch or throw and the pitcher is a 98 MPH fastball and not a clue.
    Player development is the key to sustained success and a lack of is, well, the Mariners.

  21. Bremerton guy on October 12th, 2015 3:28 pm


    “And I didnt (sic) see any of our September callups i’d even charitably call ‘promising’.”

    I agree with you for the most part, but Tony Zych looked pretty good and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t leave camp next spring on the 25.

  22. bookbook on October 12th, 2015 4:32 pm

    The collapse of essentially every top prospect in the system last year was bizarre. It was more like the entire system succumbed to depression than the normal random struggles and breakthroughs of young players working towards their life long dreams.

  23. bluemoonking on October 12th, 2015 8:30 pm

    The organization did not seem to have a game plan or a philosophy. There were no adjustments by the hitters or pitchers. The 1970’s baseball was not cutting it. This going out and see what happens was BS. How can you forget some of the insane post game press conferences Lloyd had and how long it would take to explain. This was Jack Z’s and to think that more than a few would survive was insane and not fair. I don’t know if there will be progress right away. I do expect a change in the roster and attitude. I expect that if the Mariners do not make the playoffs in the next 3 years, Jerry D will be on the hot seat too. But for the first time in 3 years, I have some hope again.

  24. stevemotivateir on October 13th, 2015 4:44 pm

    Regarding the bullpen this season, I agree that the utter collapse wasn’t Jack’s fault. However, not doing anything about it while they were still in the hunt, was.

    Regarding the base running and stolen base attempts…in a single word, fugly. That’s on Lloyd.

    I agree with Westy, though. Lloyd handled the pitching staff fairly well.

  25. Notfromboise on October 13th, 2015 7:13 pm

    Brem : Zych looked good at times, the devil advocate can point out thought its not hard to look competent when you are surrounded by a dumpster fire of a bullpen. 🙂

    Here’s one thing Jack could not control : Hitters do *not* want to come to Safeco. Just last year Josh Hamilton and Upton basically laughed at Mariner inquiries in the offseason, a trend that started years ago. Jack got caught in a loop. He couldnt attract name hitters, so he brought in the Morse/Morrison/Hart-type reclamation projects.. And their assorted failures just reinforced the idea that if you are a MLB hitter and ever want to see another contract again, do *not* go to Safeco.

    On the other end of the spectrum, pitchers have no qualms pitching in Safeco. Part of the logic of the Montero/Pineda swap was it would be far easier to lure pitchers thru free agency than legit hitters. It’s also how they justified sending Doug Fister out of town, etc.

    So Dipoto has to deal with the pitcher’s park stigma. He needs another outfielder, and the last two legit hitters brought into then organization (Cruz/Cano) were dramatic overpays for players on the downhill slope of their productivity. I don’t know how to fix that, especially given our troubles in free agency.

    Hence my advocation for spending free agent dollars on a closer. Maybe some starting pitching if it can be had.. and maybe just maybe we can send out a Montgomery/Elias/Paxton type to bring in a real return on the batters side of the box ala Pineda/Montero. Don’t be results oriented, and correct me if i’m wrong, but Montero was the last real hitter brought in from the outside that wasnt a dh/1b buy low project.

  26. eponymous coward on October 13th, 2015 10:10 pm

    Hitters do *not* want to come to Safeco.

    I suppose the Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz signings never happened.

    Did the Mariners win any more games in this alternate universe? Is the sky a different color here?

    On the other end of the spectrum, pitchers have no qualms pitching in Safeco. Part of the logic of the Montero/Pineda swap was it would be far easier to lure pitchers thru free agency than legit hitters.

    Which is why the M’s have signed all those big name free agent starting pitchers not named Iwakuma like… um… give me a minute here… um…

    Seriously, have you actually paid any attention at who the M’s have signed as FA’s lately? Hint: it’s not been big name FA pitchers to big deals. Chris Young? JA Happ? Get real…

  27. Notfromboise on October 14th, 2015 12:07 am

    Adrian Beltre : almost ruined his career in Safeco. Has mashed at every other stop (one of the best defensive 5s ever, i grant you). Corner him with a microphone and ask him if he’s interested in coming back to Safeco in 2016. Feel free.

    Sexson did sign at the tail end of his prime, and was great for a couple of seasons. But if you are reaching that far back it kinda proves my point. 😉

    Cano and Cruz both massive overpays, with big money into (or almost into) their age 40 years. In Cruz they were bidding against minimal sutiors. In Cano I couldnt even tell you who they were bidding against, and I’m sure the Yankees couldnt tell you either.

    And I have paid attention to whom the Mariners have signed recently. And you are right they haven’t focused on their strength (pitcher’s park) at all. They’ve done little in the market to boost their pitching, and thats probably why Dipoto is kicking his feet up onto JackZ’s desk as we speak. To be fair, the Mariners have been pretty good at developing their own pitching talents, which might explain it (i said develop, not keep healthy fwiw).

    I guess the real issue is they haven’t done much of anything in free agency, Cruz and Cano non-withstanding. The only thing we’ve really learned in the last few years is most of our desired targets don’t seem to be interested in coming to Seattle. I hope to heck Dipto can fix it. This team really has some great talent and WAR monsters on the roster.

  28. Notfromboise on October 14th, 2015 12:46 am

    26-29 in one run games.
    12 walk-off losses.
    26 (not a typo) blown saves.

    Sign a closer. Preferably one that does not give us a heart attack every night.

  29. bluemoonking on October 14th, 2015 10:08 am

    I have to disagree with Lloyds handling of the bullpen and starters. Felix and a couple of other pitchers got tired. 12 walk off losses. The nonsense about sticking with Rodney. And worst of all, the game plans AFTER the first turn in the order. Find a closer, get some catching depth and GET SOME SPEED in the outfield.

    Lloyd, again was Jack’s guy. Very loyal and that is admirable. But whatever the plan was, it was not working. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in the discussion between Mather and Dipoto. Jack had a little Maddof in him.

  30. bluemoonking on October 14th, 2015 6:00 pm

    Watched the AFL game today between the Javelinas and Saguaros. Paxton looked healthy in 3 innings. D.J. Peterson hit two home runs. But still struggles on up and away pitches. Looked like the dead pull hitter he had been said to be. D.J. played first base. Wow, that was an adventure. Jerry, D.J. is not a first baseman. The other Mariner to play was Paul Fry who looked very uncomfortable and did not finish the inning. I would have liked to see Tony Zych. But most of the players are high A or AA. Was the players from the Mariners the last act of Jack Z?

  31. Longgeorge1 on October 15th, 2015 8:44 am

    Sometime what you don’t do is as telling as what you do. Sees as if Dip is ok with the scouting as he has kept that area intact. It will be interesting to see what style of ballplayer starts to emerge from the M’s system I a couple of years.

  32. r-gordon-7 on October 20th, 2015 3:48 pm

    There are reports this evening that the Mariners have offered the Field Manager spot to Jason Varitek but that he’s turned it down. Let’s hope “Plan B” isn’t Heathcliff Slocumb…

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