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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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August 12, 2008 8:12 AM

Bad talent or underachievement?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Getting ready to shove off to Anaheim for tonight's game. Quite the off-day spent by a lot of you going back and forth on the whole Carlos Silva issue. Just one note: I don't dislike Brett Miller. And neither should some of you. I've actually met him before, posted this item from him back in February, on the blog, so I know he's a guy who puts thoughts into things. Was surprised to see him say he'd lost respect for me because of an opinion on Carlos Silva. But, oh well. He's got his opinions, I've got mine. It's been a long season, and these things come and go. As we can see from reading that old blog post, we all had expectations for this season that didn't quite get fulfilled. Silva, Miller, myself.

A part of yesterday's debate centered around whether the Mariners truly are a bad team, built with inferior talent, or merely an underachieving team with players who can't win when they have to. As many of you know, I'm siding with the latter part of that argument. And no, it's not because I'm afraid of being proven wrong about my pre-season prediction. I've already been proved wrong. So, that's not really part of this discussion. The team hasn't won. It hasn't contended. Whether it's for one reason or another, I was still wrong. This isn't an attempt at excuse making. It's an attempt at figuring out what the heck went wrong this year. Something the team is no doubt doing as I type this. In the spirit of catching my plane on time, I'll make this brief.

Here's how I've gone about determining why this team is an underachiever more than a "bad talent" assembly. First off, let's look at this set of on-base-plus slugging percentage statistics, as of today, for the Mariners' starting nine position players and DH (from the Opening Day roster):

Ichiro .755
Lopez .775
Vidro .612
Ibanez .837
Beltre .742
Sexson .696
Johjima .558
Wilkerson .652
Betancourt .632

Better yet, let's look at what they were back on May 15, when, after getting thumped twice in a week by the Texas Rangers, the M's limped home from their latest road trip all but out of it:

Ichiro .688
Lopez .737
Vidro .533
Ibanez .854
Beltre .777
Sexson .714
Johjima .571
Wilkerson .652
Betancourt .629

So, there you go. Obviously, a bunch of players are no longer here. Wilkerson appears to be a case of a guy who simply fell off the planet. I'll grant you that. It happens. But as for the rest, what I do is look at where they were projected to be in 2008, using whatever system you want. Try PECOTA, or ZiPS. Any system at all. Plug it in and see what was projected for them. Then, you look and see where those numbers correspond to the actual ones put up right now. Or, see where they corresponded to those that had been put up at about the mid-May point this team fell out of it.

If they are close, then take that system you used to project performance and put it in the bank.

Or, if they are largely off, you might want to reconsider your claim this team had no talent to begin with. All I'm looking for, in trying to understand the "no talent" argument, is a sign that these players are performing about as expected by everyone before the season began and therefore stink. But I'm not finding that in my research. So far, what I've seen is massive underperformance. And when you have that, I think it's letting the players off the hook too easily to attribute this year's collapse to poor roster building and other things that ignore the massive underachievement we've seen. Sure, some players, like Wilkerson, simply crash. But an entire lineup? Remember, this isn't an old versus young thing. The old guy, Raul Ibanez, has held up quite well. The younger guys, like Yuniesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre, not so well. Was Ichiro a case of "no talent" with that .688 OPS in mid-May? Not to me, he wasn't.

But that's just me. Do the exercise. Compare projected versus actual numbers. Do it with pitchers, too. You can. And like I said, if this team comes close to the numbers your system projected, send them on by to me and I'll reconsider my stance that this is more of an "ability to win when it matters" issue versus a "talent" question.

Simple enough? I've got to catch my plane.


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Posted by el bufalo chief

8:50 AM, Aug 12, 2008

This makes me want to grab someone by the neck and throw them against the wall.

Posted by Alaskan

8:56 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Nice to see everything's cooled down. I propose starting over, clean slate and all. Let's see how long we can go without mentioning any other blogs, too. They don't have anything to do with the debate here, unless we make it about them and not about baseball.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

9:01 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I know you are short of time, but please show your work when you get some more, Geoff. I'd be interested, going player by player, to see which projections you are relying on.

Plus, you forgot the pitchers.

Posted by downonstrikes

9:02 AM, Aug 12, 2008

The argument is moot.

I don't care about statistics and analysis. What this year is all about is psychology. Too many foolish moves by the Front Office have zapped morale and taken player's miind off what is important in professional sports; winning.

Remember, if you will, back to the days when Jose Cruz Jr (1997?) was on the team with Griffey and everyone was happy and chemistry was good. All of a sudden FO moves Cruz out and the teams attitude went sour overnight. You had to have been there to observe the faces and demeanors and the words spoken.

It was like a balloon with a slow leak.

The M's have gotten themselves into this mess by a number of really bad trades, player moves, and rewarding undeserving participants. It has played with the minds of all the team.

Do what you want with numbers, stats, talent analysis, it still boils down to the mind and people being unhappy due to management bumbling, meddling, and the distrust thus created.

On a different subject, Geoff, can't you have just one poster from one IP address or something. It is obvious some of the posters here have multiple handles and are thus able to flame certain individuals with inpunity?

Posted by pygmalion

9:08 AM, Aug 12, 2008

PECOTA projected the team to win 73 games. I don't have access to the PECOTA projections for individual players, but you know what? I'm betting that they weren't very good. Why? Good teams don't go 73-89.

Yes, the team is playing worse than 73-89 - then again, PECOTA couldn't have projected the injuries to Bedard and Putz, or that Vidro would completely fall of the cliff (he was projected to hit something like .735 OPS).

Posted by Chuck

9:14 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I chose not to comment on the Silva discussion because it got out of control. BUT, as your figures indicate, we have a bunch of underachievers. As in business, public schools, the military, et al, good organizations have outstanding leadership. Bad organizations have bad leadership. In sports especially, good managers/coaches are successful wherever they go. Military leaders can inspire their troops to great victories. Inspirational national leaders can provide the leadership for great national achievement. All this to point out that the Ms leadership is sorely lacking. It is why we can't get men home from third with less then two outs; or why we make so many mental fielding errors; or why we swing at so many bad pitchs; or why we can't lay down a bunt; or why players are sniping at others and "talking out of school." On the filed I blame the two managers and the coach's. Part of leadership is inspiring players to do their best every day. It can be done by a pat on the back, yelling in an ear, a word of encouragement, a kick in the butt, all in a timely and fair manner. But it has to be consistent. Of course praise in public and correct in private. Simple, but sadly lacking in Ms field leadership.

Posted by tugboatcritic

9:23 AM, Aug 12, 2008

honestly think that one of the key mistakes made was by the FO. Not upgrading DH put a lot of pressure on an already suspect lineup. While the Vidro hatefest was irrational, there is no denying that his lack of production, in the middle of the lineup hurt the chances of the club.

I think that improving that one spot, which would have also improved the bench, (Vidro as ph, and spot duty) might of made a big difference.

Moving forward, Johjima is a problem, one that hopefully will sort itself out with an honor based ritual quitting on his part (just kidding).

Being part of an ever-decreasing fan base of the Bedard trade, I still like the top of the rotation as well as any in the Division. If Ibanez goes away or to DH, we are going to have to find some legitimate power. Power that can play everyday, which most likely precludes the "freely available" market.

Back to Geoffs' point: In the end, I think that the reason for the collapse is due to some combination of both sides of the debate. Ichiro got off to a slow start and the rest of the guys just didn't show up. The bullpen struggled early and 4/5 of our rotation either stunk or was hurt through May. Not a good combination. And if the in-fighting in the clubhouse is at the levels reported, an attitude and talent upgrade is needed in the future.

Posted by AC

9:25 AM, Aug 12, 2008

The problem is relying on team members to repeat performances year-to-year. That's all we heard this past off season, "they won 88 games last year and added an ace."
Doesn't work like that.
In 2002, the team "upgraded" from David Bell to Jeff Cirillo, dropped 23 wins and missed the playoffs. Replay that 2001 season a thousand times, and I bet they never sniff 116 wins in more than 5 of them.

The $64,000 is: how can you be so willing to call this team a group of talented underachievers based on last year's result, but be so unwilling to entertain the possibility that LAST YEAR'S team was a bunch of untalented overachievers based on the last 3-4 years that many of these guys have been together and lost miserably in all but 2007?
The M's haven't scored more runs than they have allowed since 2003! Which W-L record is the real outlier here? Hint: not 2008.

Posted by lwl

9:28 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Remember when spring training started and this was the team Bavassi and Mac wanted. The starters were already named and therefore no compition for jobs. The only question mark was Lopez and he is the only one who has responded, offensively at least. I think the mindset was, we are a good team and we will have a good year. Then the bad start and they didn't know how to handle it. I think everyone was stunned and couldn't realize how they got there. Of course the root of the problem was Bavassi's bad trades and acquisitions which depleted the farm system and of coures the extension of Johjima. I do not believe this was an ownership mandate. I believe he might have wanted to do it but our baseball people should have fought against it. After all Japanese business men are not stupid. The stupid ones are the non baseball people making baseball decisions for the Mariners, Howard & Chuck. The current team has some talanted players and a core group to build around. Start by at least replacing Chuck and let the new president hire his manadment team. Good baseball decisions will follow.

Posted by Bill

9:30 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I'm kind of anxious to see how the M's respond to face the Angels. I certainly don't see the Angels taking the M's likely (they never do) so I would like to see if the M's have it in them to play up to the level of their competition. I caught parts of the Angels/Yankees series this weekend and it was refreshing to see aggressive play by the Angels: even as they were pulling way ahead of the Yankees guys were stealing bases and driving in runs.


Why is it that no one on this team (other than occasionally Ichiro and Willie RIP) steals bases? Even the threat of stealing can cause the other team to make bad pitches or commit errors. Surely guys like Beltre and Reed have to have some speed. We keep hearing about Yuni's wheels but he nevers steals...of course he has to get on base before he can steal.

Posted by teetoewa

9:30 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Exactly what I was wondering, AC

Posted by Top pick in 09 draft

9:37 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I strongly agree with the post by lwl that the dysfunction with the team starts at the tip-top - esp. with Armstrong who is a non-baseball person in charge of making operational decisions including hiring. This is the clown who two weeks prior to the canning of Bonehead Bill said that BB was part of the solution and not the problem. Lincoln is the main person in charge of financial decisions and if there is not a change in ownership (hopefully there is), he may be kept by Mr. Yamauchi because the team is still profitable. Armstrong however needs to be retired like Babs Hedges (who became the UW AD instead of him) - i.e. given the boot.

Posted by Jed MC

9:43 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Isn't it possible that both are true - the M's aren't that talented AND they are underachieving?

Remember the pre-season predictions looking at their talent as a roughly .500 team or worse (PECOTA & ZIPS come to mind)? Add in a few injuries to key players like Felix, JJ, & Bedard, unlucky performances from Beltre and Ichiro (from the beginning of the year), collapses from Sexson, Miguel B., Kenji, and Vidro, lack of improvement from Betancourt, and a complete lack of depth at the 1B and DH slots - viola, there is your team.

I'd say this wasn't a talented enough team to reach the playoffs unless everything went right, which obviously hasn't happened.

Posted by Scanman

9:43 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Iíve said this many times, I think a lot of people have had their opinions and expectations deeply influenced by the Mariner hype machine. We have been constantly fed this steady diet of bullsh** of how great our mediocre talent is. Itís sad how many bought into it and couldnít see with their own eyes that these are only average to below average players. Ichiro is above average; Iíll give you that. But then again heís no Roberto Clemente now is he. The book is still being written on Felix so time will tell with him, but as for the rest of them, Cooperstown is only a place to visit, not reside!

Posted by McCoy

9:49 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I've had enough with the Times sports section. When the Soncis leave, we get a nice little lament from Brewer about how he's not from this city and never followed the Sonics, but gee was he sad.

And we have Baker who brings no historical insight to the team. It'd sure be nice to remiss about past years in a post or two, but Baker can't do that because he wasn't here and he wasn't a fan or follower of the team in the 80s or 90s.

When we trade Bedard, does Baker go with him? Why again do we have a Torotno Blue Jay's reporter blogging about our team?

It'd be nice to have a Times sports reporter that has some concept of Seattle sports history.

Hey Baker, what are your top-10 Mariner moments? Was this even asked in your interview? How could you possibly answer?

You remember watching when Buhner caught that ball over the short wall at Fenway? You remember Bosio pitching a no-hitter? Remember those fireworks in the Kingdome, how they'd cover the field with layers of smoke so thick and smelly you couldn't even see the game? No Baker, you don't remember these things, because you didn't follow the Mariners.

Time for Stone to take over until a Seattle born and raised sportswriter can take over. There have got to be some local UW journalism graduates out there, come on.

Posted by Simon

9:58 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I think I'm with AC on this one. 2007 was really quite damaging to the team because it raised expectations beyond what was reasonable. From that shiny 88-74 record, it seemed like a short step to contention. However, the RS/RA record showed that this was misleading. Batista won 16 games, for crying out loud! Can anyone honestly say that Batista really has that kind of ability? Or was that maybe just a bit of luck padding his stats?

Now, having said that, I am prepared to allow that this season is a combination of lack of talent and underachieving. It doesn't have to be "either/or". Now lets assume that record last year was really about 80-82, based on their RS/RA. Add in a Bedard, throw in a Silva, lose a Jones and Sherrill, lose a Guillen. Expect a continued decline in Sexson and Vidro, both of which were widely predicted. Feel free to disagree, but those minuses sure seem to outweigh the pluses. I don't think a prediction like 73-89 from PECOTA looks too far off based on this.

Now, I would argue that a record of about 73-89 this season would seem to be the Mariner's true talent level, based on the squad that started the year. I would suggest that what gets the team down from that level to their current projection of about 64-98 is a combination of underachieving and injury: Ichiro's April, injuries to Bedard and Putz, combined with regression from Betancourt and others.

They HAVE underachieved some, but not nearly enough to blame it all on that. This really isn't a good team, and the sooner the FO realizes that and starts to do something about it, the better. Getting rid of Sexeson, Vidro, MacLaren and Bavasi are steps in the right direction.

Posted by DJ

9:59 AM, Aug 12, 2008

For the sake of discussion here are the 2008 season ZIPS OPS projections for the opening day roster:

Ichiro .776
Lopez .671
Vidro .734
Ibanez .799
Beltre .770
Sexson .764
Johjima .721
Wilkerson .741
Betancourt .723

Just to throw this in there, the only Mariner in the ZIPS projection that had an OPS higher than .800 was Adam Jones (.812)

Posted by Simon

9:59 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I see Jed MC got there before me!

Posted by Sounders

10:00 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Throw enough money around and you will have one winning season out of five. Then you'll have four more losing seasons.

My worries for the M's going forward, is that they will be unable to get a good GM and a good Manager.

Howie and Chuckie drove Lou and Pat out of town and as long as they're around we'll probably only be able to get a second rate GM and a third or fourth choice Manager.

And round and round we go

Posted by M's Fan

10:02 AM, Aug 12, 2008

"Ichiro is above average; Iíll give you that."
I suppose it depends on whose definition of 'above average' you want to listen to.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/372436_hallbar28.html

Posted by b_rider

10:03 AM, Aug 12, 2008

There is a third possibility (besides bad talent or underachievement): Bad luck. A lot of players on the Mariners have been suffering from bad luck in having hits fall in, etc. The fact is, baseball depends a lot on luck, and the Mariners haven't had much.

Of course, talent and underachievement are part of it as well. But clearly a significant reason things have gone _so_ badly is just a concatenation of bad luck.

Posted by Novice

10:06 AM, Aug 12, 2008

defintely worth mentioning that Willie's injury has really hurt this team as well. Why he isnt mentioned in the above names is baffeling. When the vet leadership and emerging talent goes down, the team has little chance to recover, hense the M's poor record right now. Here's to a speedy recovery Willie!

Posted by scrapiron

10:07 AM, Aug 12, 2008

The problem with all the projection systems is they don't take a simple baseball strategy into account: pitches seen. This roster was made up entirely of free swingers that rarely draws a walk. The result is that mediocre pitchers have all star performances against the Mariners and the M's rarely get into the opponents bullpen early, when they can feast on weaker pitchers.

Every team can afford a few free swingers, but not the entire starting lineup.

Posted by Ziasudra

10:09 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I am a fan - I love Seattle, and therefore its teams, including the M's. But I am not swayed by 'hype,' I judge with my own two eyes (now four. . .).
But, this 'let's start over' is nonsense, unless we have new parts. This include the psychological parts. Something has to change to expect changes in results.
There is a phrase in an old song, "let bygones be bygones. . . " - but changes are necessary in order to do that, and start afresh.
When are the changes coming?

Posted by la verdad

10:12 AM, Aug 12, 2008

"defintely worth mentioning that Willie's injury has really hurt this team as well." Yeah, before WIllie injury: 29.5 games back. After Willie injury: 29.5 games back. He will be missed.

Posted by niner

10:50 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Bad talent.

Posted by The Gonzo Blogger

10:56 AM, Aug 12, 2008

from McCoy: "There have got to be some local UW journalism graduates out there, come on."

Don't tell WSUx3, but I'm a UW School of CMU (editorial journalism sequence) grad.


(So step aside, Baker. I want the abuse!!!).

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

10:56 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I don't know Jeff, it's a mixed bag, as any season is. Some players perform better, some worse, some right on. From Zips:

1. Ichiro - projected - .322/ .372 / .404; actual - .310/ .366 /.391 - he's essentially right on, and will probably surpass the projection at this rate.

2. Lopez - projected - ..267/ .302/ .369; actual - .310/ .331/.444; He's surpassed his projection thus far

3. Ibanez - Projected - .280/ .351/ .448; actual - .286/ .350/ .483; Ibanez has surpassed his projection slightly.

4. Betancourt - projected - .288/ .311/ .412; actual- .260/ .273/ .359 Betancourt has underperformed, but not to total collapse.

5. Sexson - projected - .234/ .323/ .441; actual - .223/ .323/ .385 - Sexson underperformed to a degree, but, really, at these numbers for a first baseman the projection wasn't too rosy to begin with. He was either going to bounce back or prove he was done. At the least you needed a back up plan for the latter.

6. Kenji - projected - .278/ .316/ .405; actual - .216/ .257/ .301 - Kenji's having a bad year. A really bad year.

7. Beltre - projected - ..268/ .320/ .450; actual - .251/ .318/ .424; Beltre's essentially meeting his projection;

8. Wilkerson - projected - .228/ .325/ .416; actual - .224/ .319/ .320 - Wilkerson has shown a significant drop in power. He was supposed to bring some pop, and RF has not been a strong offensive position for the team. They should have stocked the bench with a real outfield replacement with power.

9. Vidro - projected - .290/ .357/ .377; actual - .234/ .274/ .338

But Vidro has consistently been the worst DH in the AL for us, even if he met his projection. He was not going to be a difference maker for this team, and he was miscast from the beginning. Was it reasonable to think that, despite projections, Vidro might further decline given his age, speed, and condition. Sure it was. We should have had a back-up plan here too (Ibanez to DH, pick up an outfielder from another team?).

Further, you've not accoutned for defense - we knew it was bad going in, and it was bad. You've not accounted for pitching performances - Washburn was Washburn, Silva HAS underperformed, and may be in decline, Batista has fallen off the planet, Bedard has been good but - no surprise - not healthy, and Felix has been quite good. We expected Silva to be a more typical #5, and he's been worse in stretches. We knew if his command was not great he'd be blown out at times. Batista's steep decline is somewhat a suprise, but he's another #5, and we should not be shocked that Bedard has not been healthy. This pitching Staff was not as shiny as adverstised, and somewhat predictably so. But when you run out a strong performer with an injury risk and 3 #5 pitchers at a cost that prohibits the team from upgrading the defense and offense (2 little things that contribute to wins), this was no fool-proof rotation. #5's fall off the planet. It's why they are back of the rotation guys, and can be had (by most other teams) rather cheaply.

The bottom line, then, is that, as with any team, the projections were on for some, not high enough for some, and some players (though not most) have fallen short. The roster construction and institutional stubbornness made it very hard to move on to others when those who were playing poorly needed to be replaced. There were no contingency plans for parts of the roster that had the highest risk of decline. And too little attention was paid to defense and offensive potential - both factors that help win games. That's what went wrong. Simple enough? I think so.

Posted by Mousse

11:03 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Good post, M's Fan in CO Exile.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

11:04 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Sorry, I know it's Geoff, not Jeff. I've even met you, which makes me feel worse!

Posted by Yes, Brett Miller's STILL reading this

11:07 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I still agree with Geoff..."bad team with bad players" is just an lazy analysis. Many players have let themselves and the team down. It happens in EVERY profession folks.

And, yes, BTW, Brett Miller is STILL reading this blog.

Hi Brett!!!

Posted by lars

11:17 AM, Aug 12, 2008

The Novice household must be a mess right now. There isnt any way Willie Fing Bloomquist plays in the majors again. FA after this year, no power, and harldy a productive bench player. the guy is history

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

11:19 AM, Aug 12, 2008

"I still agree with Geoff..."bad team with bad players" is just an lazy analysis. "

I think a lazier approach is to blame players for dogging it when there is no evidence to support that except the rantings of a pitcher who is underperforming himself. Better to note the numbers relative to projections, past performance and likely decline and admit that this team was not built to address the problem areas that had a decent chance of getting worse during the season. I would not have taken a chance on Vidro or Sexson, nor paid outrageous amounts for many years of Silva, so that 3/5 of our rotation were back-end. I would not have traded Jones, Sherrill and others for Bedard. But if we were going to do those things, let's be sure we have a 1B and DH contingency plan. Let's be sure we have a major league ready bench player capable of spelling Wilkerson and Ibanez. Let's be sure we've got a guy like Morrow learning to be a starter in the likely event one of Washburn, Batista or Silva lose it. These things aren't even very expensive to do, but since so many of these bad players are also highly paid, nobody wants to cut the cord. Well, that's why we are talking about what might have been and looking for a new GM and manager right now.

Posted by NB

11:25 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Mr. STILL reading this,

Essentially it sounds as though you are disagreeing with what M's Fan in CO exile posted. I have two questions:

1) Did you find his analysis lazy? If so, why?

2) What is wrong about his analysis?

Also, if Brett is still reading this I will also extend a greeting. Hello Brett!

Posted by BWare

11:26 AM, Aug 12, 2008

OPS is a myth ready to be busted.

Posted by Joe Renton

11:28 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Ah, Duh. The talent sucks AND the team is underachieving. This is a 78-win team, give or take. Last year, it overachieved by 10 wins. This year, it'll underachieved by 10 wins (or a tad more). It's not really a surprise. None of it is. If any of you are in any way surprised by what happened this year, then you haven't been paying attention. Did I think they'd be this by bad? No, but it's not surprising, just like last year's .500-team finishing with 88 wins wasn't surprising. It's baseball.

Posted by Peter Parker

11:31 AM, Aug 12, 2008

OPS is a myth? What?? That doesn't even make sense. It's like saying 2+2=4 is myth. Nice job, ya stooge.

Posted by Adam

11:33 AM, Aug 12, 2008

After John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar went down, I said that the Mariners were the favorites in the division. I thought Bedard would be close to his 2007 self (although not as good), and that Silva would be a bit worse than his 2007 self (but not this bad). I thought we'd see a little rebound from Sexson and Lopez, but I was skeptical of Vidro and Wilkerson. I didn't see Johjima's collapse at all.

I knew the defense would be bad, but I didn't think it would be as bad as it has been.


So, I have to say that the team has underformed according to my expectations.

That said, however, I think the reason the team has performed so poorly is simple: there isn't much talent on this club.

Only two AL teams have a lower OPS+ than the Mariners, who are at 91: The Royals (86) and the A's (88). As for ERA+, only the Orioles (90) and the Rangers (80!) have it worse than the Mariners (91). If we try to take defense out of the pitching equation, things get a bit better; the Mariners' 4.29 FIP is tenth in the AL.

As for defense, per Hardball Times' +/- rating, the Mariners are the second-worst in the AL at -38 plays (only the Rangers are worse, at -39). Per Baseball Prospectus' Defensive Efficiency stat, the Mariners are better than only Texas in turning balls into play into outs.

Any way you want to spin it, the Mariners have been well below average. But here's the thing: other than perhaps Kenji, is there anyone really shocked by any individual performance?

Ichiro - he's starting to get hot, and will likely hit what we expected. Too bad he got started late.

Lopez - Perhaps the one true overachiever at the plate. Still an enigma in the field.

Ibanez - Still a good hitter (I'm a bit surprised he's hit this well); still horrible in LF.

Beltre - Pretty much as expected

Sexson/Vidro - sucked just like most anticipated

Wilkerson - some surprise here, but not a ton

Yuni - as expected, he is horrible at the plate; now his defense isn't very good

Johjima - yikes.

As for the pitching, you could be surprised by Silva's problems, or Batista's complete collapse. Bedard has pitched pretty well when on the mound, Washburn's been ok, and Felix has been very good. Thanks to Morrow and Green, the pen's been pretty good.


In other words, when you break down the roster, it's hard to find too many players who really underachieved and caused an unexpected freefall.

I think we can't discount how important defense is, and how badly this organization needs to learn to teach its young players to take walks. Those two things really hurt the 2008 Mariners.


So did this team underachieve? Maybe. But let's not forget that many called into question the legitimacy of the 2007 season, and how talented the team really was. It's not fair to compare the two squads and attribute the problems this year to underachievement, rather than a general lack of talent.

Posted by bandwagonjumper

11:34 AM, Aug 12, 2008

From what I have seen this year I would call it under achievement as the cause for the M's lack of winning. To start out the year we had close to the same roster as the previous except for another supposedly good starter and what we thought would be similar right fielder. I didn't think the previous years performance was a fluke and I thought a few of the guys would be better. Off of that analysis I thought the team would definitely be in contention and have a very good year, over 95 wins. Having Morse go down, not keeping Norton when he was hot, Bedard not staying healthy, Putz not being healthy and a poorly managed ball club got the team down the loosing path. Rather than a different person helping the team each night to win, the team collectively tanked and I think it became individuals instead of a team. When they became individuals I think they pressed too hard and under preformed to what they are capable of. I know Yuni can play good defense and hit the ball well, we've seen it before, just really not much this year, he's regressed some from previous years. We saw the same thing with Lopez hitting last year, this year his hitting well, but the defense and effort is something that is lacking. It seems as though right now that some guys heads aren't really in the game, they are making too many mental errors / not trusting their abilities.

For the record: I did think Batista's win record was a fluke last year (he seemed like 2 pitches away from disaster) and this year has been horrible. But I still think he is a good guy, just might be done as a baseball player. Mac was a really good guy but not the right guy to manage this team. He didn't have the guys he needed to fit the game plan he wanted to use and he didn't adjust his game plan to fit the talent he had. Now I don't know how much of the roster was him and how much was the FO / bavis. I think if Mel had been managing from the start, this might of been a very different year.

Posted by Tim

11:36 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I'm not saying there's nothing in terms of talent - but I think it's culture. I'm seeing comments like Silva's show up in the paper almost every year for like six years.

I don't know what to make of it from the outside, but MAN do I wonder if this management (FO) doesn't have some sort of culture of nagging players.

I have a lot of trouble seeing people saying mildly nasty things about each other as being motivating. Some people handle embarrassment well. Others are head cases and get upset. Not good.

I CAN see Sweet Lou yelling at someone as motivating - fear can work.
I CAN see people organizing goals as motivating.
I CAN see a bunch of people working out with each other and cooperating as motivating.

But all I seem to read in the paper is leaks of people complaining about 'player x not carrying his weight, player y not putting the time in'.

Maybe I'm just still irked at how they kept complaining about Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen going out on the town - while producing on the field.

And don't get me started about 'injury-prone' Carlos and his TB.


Posted by fred

11:40 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Geoff: Yes, underachievement by many on the roster, both young and old. Others playing up to their career norms.

Main problem, though, was in Bavasi's investment of resources to construct the team. Washburn, Silva, Bedard, Batista have simply not been worth the dollars and playing talent invested in them. Vidro, Sexson, Wilkinson, Ramirez cost money and/or players well beyond their worth. Johjima's fat contract extension cannot be blamed on Bavasi if, as reported, it was ordered from Japan. But it should have been resisted by Lincoln, Armstrong, Bavasi. Betancourt and Lopez have talent but, as often discussed here, lose focus and are underperforming in the field and, in Betancourt's case, in all parts of his game.

It is both things. Underperforming and bad, cost-ineffective roster building.

Posted by Jason

11:42 AM, Aug 12, 2008

OPS is a myth ready to be busted.

This is a story I'd love to hear. It's probably put together by the same group who try to discredit the existance of global warming. The 'alternate reality' club or something.

Posted by Ryan

11:47 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Re: Batista and Silva


He had a 66-79 record coming in to last year. I' also thought that the 16 wins were a fluke or he was helped by run support. I don't have his numbers handy from last year, but he also put a ton of guys on in 2007 too. The differnce is, he escaped most of those jams, something he's not doing this year. Silva has always been around .500 and doesn't have the stuff to blow by hitters. He neds to keep the ball down, and he's not doing that either. Bad year?? Yes!! It happens, but it becomes more magnified when you go out there and blow your top and threaten to knock your teammates against the wall.


I questioned the Wilkerson signing and the Bedard trade, just like alot of us did. I guess it's poetic justice that Adam Jones is probably done for the year too. No one knew that Bedard would miss half the season, no one knew that Johjima would tank like he has. It's a crapshoot. It's a whole bunch of guys collectively having bad years, save for Lopez and Ibanez who have been really good, and Felix who has a good ERA, but a 7-7 record to show for it.

Was this team 88 win good last year?? No, they overacheived, and this year they are underacheiving. I think there is a little lack of talent too. So, I guess you could answer yes to both questions.

Posted by Ryan

11:50 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Obviously by " he", I meant Batista. I started to write just about him and then added Silva on at the end. I apologize for the confusion that may have caused.

Posted by daddydriz

11:52 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Thanks for the analysis and hard work, M's Fan in CO Exile. I am an M's Fan in WA exile, having moved here from Longmont before the Rockies were a reality. In what part of CO are you exiled?

Posted by tugboatcritic

11:54 AM, Aug 12, 2008

M's Fan in CO- I see that you have used a ZIPS projection system and broken down the starting 9. I also see that you have given the breakdown using those sets of numbers and concluded that the position players haven't really strayed from their projections much. Hm, I thought that I would head over to THT and take a look. One metric that they seem fond of is Gross Production Average (GPA), the equation can be found in their glossary.

Having plugged the starting nines' projected vs. actual numbers into the equation, I came up with this:
1) Vidro projected GPA=.254, actual=.207
2)Wilkerson projected=.250, actual=.223
3)Beltre, Proj.=.256, actual= .249
4Kenji proj.=.243, actual=.190
5)Sexson=.255 actual=.241
6)Betancourt= .242 actual=.212
7)ibanez=.269 actual=.278
8)Lopez=.228 actual=.259
9) Ichiro= .268 actual=.262

So while your synopsis seemed to imply that the M's position guys are playing to their abilities, GPA shows that no less than 7 are below expectations, some of which by a shocking amount. I a little too lazy to flesh out the stat further, but one can associate these totals to a run amount, which in turn I suppose would spit out some sort of win value. I would suspect that by the net amount that these guys have actually undershot predictions, a pretty good case can be made for Geoff's statement. I'm not sure that you have made your case by the methods you chose.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

11:58 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Hey Daddydriz - I am in the Tech Center/Greenwood Village area.

I traded green lush landscapes and the ocean for Rocky Mountains and 300+ days of sunshine a year. I don't think either of us made a bad trade, honestly. I hope you are enjoying WA.

Posted by Donovan

12:04 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Adam's analysis is spot on. I'd only add that Putz' injury-driven lost season was a significant factor in the decline that nobody anticipated. He had a lot to do with the 88 wins in 07.

The division of failure between lack of talent and underachieving is a little simplistic. It isn't just a case of players having bad years simultaneously, though that is part of the picture, and it isn't just a case of mediocre players, though I believe that is also true. There are also key skills missing from the roster. We do have some decent hitters, but we have no true power hitter to slot between Belte and Ibanez in the order. We have no speed beyond Ichiro. We have terribly inconsistent middle IFs, and they have always been so. There are big ability gaps as well as performance gaps on this team.

Posted by Cynical Optimist

12:06 PM, Aug 12, 2008

If anybody remembers, last year the Mariners let Jason Ellison go in August so Adam Jones could come up. That was the moment they started losing. Remember that Ellison was the guy who came out and tried to fight Joe Blanton when Ichiro got pushed. That was when they were winning. That's team chemistry and sure there's no proof of it but look at the numbers before and after Ellison left and Jones came up and it makes an interesting argument.

Posted by nicko

12:14 PM, Aug 12, 2008

How can you deny the lack of leadership and togetherness? Look at the rays! they are all tight and have leaders in longoria and crawford and clearly love the game! Compared to last year where they lacked longoria and clearly didnt love the game!

Posted by ness77

12:14 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Seattle Mariners projected offensive stats (avg/obp/ops) from the first site I checked, Baseball Prospectus:
.264/.323/.399, 4.27 runs scored per game, 4.6 runs allowed

Seattle Mariners offensive stats thus far:
.264/.319/.383, 4.12 runs scored per game, 4.82 runs allowed

Other posters have beaten me to the more in-depth analysis, but safe to say the Mariners are performing pretty damn close to the realistic and informed pre-season projections.

Posted by Big Ebu

12:15 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Has anyone heard anything on the Waiver Trade front? This morning I heard on KJR that someone on ESPN reported that Boston and Tampa had put in waiver claims for Ibanez, and that Chicago (White Sox) and New York (Yankees) had put in waiver claims for Washburn. Based on records this would mean that Boston would have the right to negotiate for Ibanez, and the Yankees for Washburn.

I donít see why Boston would want Ibanez and am assuming they put in a claim to block Tampa from getting a chance (who might be interested with Crawford on the DL). But a Waiver trade with the Yankees for Washburn would be possible.

Or considering the source (KJR) this may be totally off the mark.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

12:17 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Hey Tugboatcritic. I chose Zips because Geoff mentioned it as one of his two suggestions. Since he mentioned it, I thought is was good common ground. I don't know that this crowd is tuned into GPA as an accurate measure of player contribution (and I don't see the pre-season projections on the site). Geoff has been focused on OPS and OPS+ You can't blame me for discussing these points on turf he staked out.

Posted by scottM

12:28 PM, Aug 12, 2008

from M's Fan in CO: "a lazier approach is to blame players for dogging it"

A worthy response here requires the Resin eyeball (scouting) approach to assess the play of the M's in '08. I would say that there are two players guilty of "dogging it." However, statistics don't show what we've seen from Josť Lopez and Yuni Betancourt, especially. Several games have been lost this season due to plays that should have been made by our middle infielders, but weren't. Most of those plays don't show up as errors.

The reason many consider this underachievement, or dogging it, is because both player are young, and both players (Lopez, the All-Star in 2006, and Yuni, up until this season) demonstrated that they could be very consistent fielders. Why do they appear to be dogging it in 2008? Do they weight too much and are slower? Are they complacent in thinking they are entitled to their positions? Were their past season performances anomalies? Bottom line, their erratic fielding looks like a dog, stinks like a dog, and feels like dog play. So why are they not "doggin' it"? .

For example, there was NO excuse that Lopez did not get that third out tag on Upton in the sixth inning of the extra innings game we lost to the Rays 7 to 8. How many hole in the glove singles has Lopez given up? How many routine throws to first have sailed on Yuni? Is this something that would be cured with better focus and determination by these two fielders? I think so.

Posted by Big Ebu

12:33 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Adam,

Good points. I think another factor was the poor roster construction that really limited the Mariners ability to replace players that were underachieving with better options. So the impact of a few players underachieving was magnified. I also thought the Mariners would win the division. But I think most of us optimists also recognized that there was little margin for error once Lackey returned to LAA. So the Mariners really couldnít afford any underachieving if they were going to contend.

Posted by tugboatcritic

12:41 PM, Aug 12, 2008

GPA creates one number using the exact numbers that you were. So no, I wasn't questioning the use, I was, showing that you glossed over some very significant differences between projection and actual numbers. There is no need for a GPA projection, I figured it based on the ZIPS numbers that you used and came up with a result.

Those results don't really agree with your synopsis, that's all. You seem shocked to find someone using a measure past batting average. I don't have a ton of use for a lot of advanced metrics but I just gave one a whirl. The results are what they are. The M's have underperformed to great degree, using the same projection system that has been bandied about as the One, all year.

Posted by scrapiron

12:42 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Big Ebu - Ibanez did not clear waivers, so he cannot be traded. Washburn did clear waivers, and I heard that the White Sox are interested in Washburn to replace Contreras in the rotation.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

12:56 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Scott M,

Most of us watch all the games. In fact, some of us pay a lot of money to watch all the games and feel like that hasn't been a good investment lately.

Do you honestly think that Betancourt and Lopez don't care if they are making these plays? Why isn't a theory that they are trying too hard plausible - i.e., they want to make the play so bad to shed their reputation of declining defense that they think about it too much, put too much on the ball, and don't make the plays because they don't let instinct take over. Do I know if this is the case? No, but there's no reason to think your explanation is more reasonable than that one. You just don't know and can't do anything more than speculate.

By the way, Lopez has not shown us consistent defense for any long stretch of his short career. He's shown flashes of solid defense with lapses from time to time. That's what we see this year too. Yuni's woes are not new this season. Why wasn't everybody up in arms about his defense, calling him a slacker, when he was in defensive decline last year and started to show a reduction in range? Oh yeah, because for a chunk of the time the team was winning.

Do you think it is a coincidence that it is primarily losing teams that play the blame game and cite half-hearted effort and bad chemistry for their woes and losses? It doesn't seem to matter that most of their players aren't good, or that the team is poorly constructed. I'd argue that losing causes bad feelings and resentment, and bad feelings/resentment create bad chemistry. People who aren't professionals then stab one another in the back in the press.

Winning keeps even nasty teammates in check most often, and -amazingly- chemistry is not an issue. No bad stories in the press, and somehow the slackers are picking it up even though their stats don't reflect a difference. Did you notice that slacker Lopez is having a good offensive year? Maybe Sexson and Vidro should have slacked off with him.

Posted by Simon

12:58 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Rather than arguing back and forth about whether lack of ability or underachievement is to blame (and I really think it's both) - the more interesting question for me is: so what should they do about it from here?

This team is likely heading for close to 100 losses on the season. They will finish last in their division. They might finish with the worst record in baseball, putting themselves in line to possibly pick up Strasburg in next year's draft. Some of this year's team will be gone in 09, some are guaranteed to stay, several others we just don't know. Oh yeah, they also have an interim GM and coach.

So what should they do? Blow it all up and start from scratch? Just keep on doing more of the same (please no!)? Try to contend in 09? 10? 11?

I'm really not sure what to think. I see a few encouraging pieces in the minors, but not enough to make me completely optimistic about the future. I'm also concerned that the FO will choose a GM and coach who will simply perpetuate old and ineffective ways of operating.

Anyhow, I don't have too many answers right now, just lots of questions.

Posted by BWare

1:30 PM, Aug 12, 2008

About OPS...

Honestly, I don't have the energy today to engage in spirited debate on it - had a VERY LONG walk home after missing the last train last night.

Start a new thread on it, and I'll be happy to engage in spirited and meritorious discussion.

Today, I'm pooped...sorry...

Posted by Alaskan

1:31 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Simon,

What I took from Baker's blog yesterday is that a lot of people think Silva going off is part of the answer. Someone "being a leader", I suppose. Then next year, they will overperform again, instead of underperforming.

While we're talking about performance, I'd just like to point out that a great bullpen helped us win way more close games than you normally would, thereby skewing our pythagorean results. This year is nearly the opposite, or at least much closer to league average. The obvious cause of that change is the loss of Sherrill by trade and Putz to injury. I'm sure they both overperformed last year, and that performance is a large factor in the team's results. Let's keep that in mind, and not just limit ourselves to looking at the offense.

Posted by scottM

1:38 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Exiled M's Fan in CO:

Your argument is mostly well-reasoned, but similar to the difficulty lawyers have in determining "intent", such as premeditated murder, or tax evasion/tax fraud. No one is suggesting that Josť Lopez is intentionally botching plays. The baffling part is that Josť is playing so well at the plate this season. However, logically, they're two completely different functions.

Irrefutably, there have been far too many instances where Josť Lopez doesn't have his head completely in the game at second base. Maybe he doesn't have the skills to play there, but I would assert that he needs to stay more focused in the field. Staying focused is something that is reasonably expected of these highly paid players. The fact that Lopez doesn't find the resolve to stay focused enough is reason to suggest that he's dogging it. Can we prove it? No. If we can't prove it, do we have the worse problem of poor skills? Yes.

Pick your poison or ask Josť himself, but it hasn't tasted good this year.

Posted by scottM

1:44 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Convergence Theory of Failure.

This season's demise cannot be assessed by Year-To-Date stats. This season was lost in the first two months of 2008.

Top Ten Converging Reasons Why the M's 2008 Season Spiraled out of contention by late May:

10. Undisciplined hitting (allowing opposing starter to play too deep in games, too many DP balls, and SOs). The worst players first:
a. Yuni
b. Sexson
c. Beltre
d. Johjima
e. Balentien
f. Clement
g. Beltre
h. Ichiro

9. Inability to hit with runners in scoring position
a. Beltre, especially

8. Balentien and Clement were not ML caliber hitters when called up in May. Extended the void at C and RF, didn't fill it.

7. Erratic Starting Pitching (worse first)
a. Batista
b. Silva
c. Bedard (injury)
d. Dickey (hit and miss)
e. Washburn

6. Not re-signing Josť Guillťn (for play and leadership)

5. Bonehead defensive play.
a. Lopez
b. Yuni

4. Bullpen performance unable to replace JJ Putz, early on.

3. McLaren playing players based on Salary, not performance
a. Vidro
b. Sexson
c. Johjima
d. Wilkerson
f. Ibanez in left
also, McLaren wanting to befriend players when they needed higher expectations placed on them and consequences for substandard performance.

2. JJ Putz on the DL

1. Substandard Batting (ranked by significance):
a. Jose Vidro, DH (a power position)
b. Brad Wilkerson, RF (a power position)
c. Kenji Johjima, C (not a power position, but radical decline)
d. Richie Sexson, 1B (same as 2007, but not enough for a power position)
e. Ichiro (unacceptable slow start in April)

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

1:46 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Tugboatcritic said, "Those results don't really agree with your synopsis, that's all. You seem shocked to find someone using a measure past batting average. "

Umm, not really. I think batting average is an incomplete measure of player contribution, and I do think many of the advance metrics are useful.

To humor you, let's go over the numbers you introduced, with my player prior analysis below it (remember, this metric is supposed to read like BA, so if you are in within a few points of a projection you are essentially meeting it):

1) Vidro projected GPA=.254, actual=.207

"But Vidro has consistently been the worst DH in the AL for us, even if he met his projection. He was not going to be a difference maker for this team, and he was miscast from the beginning. Was it reasonable to think that, despite projections, Vidro might further decline given his age, speed, and condition. Sure it was. We should have had a back-up plan here too (Ibanez to DH, pick up an outfielder from another team?)."


2)Wilkerson projected=.250, actual=.223

"Wilkerson has shown a significant drop in power. He was supposed to bring some pop, and RF has not been a strong offensive position for the team. They should have stocked the bench with a real outfield replacement with power."


3)Beltre, Proj.=.256, actual= .249

"Beltre's essentially meeting his projection; "

4Kenji proj.=.243, actual=.190

"Kenji's having a bad year. A really bad year. "

5)Sexson=.255 actual=.241

"Sexson underperformed to a degree, but, really, at these numbers for a first baseman the projection wasn't too rosy to begin with. He was either going to bounce back or prove he was done. At the least you needed a back up plan for the latter."

6)Betancourt= .242 actual=.212

"Betancourt has underperformed, but not to total collapse." I stand by this. Betancourt has always been a somewhat empty BA kind of guy. Not real signficant slugging numbers, and impatient at the plate. A drop of .030 in this stat is an underperformance, but for what Yuni is, it is not a total collapse.

7)ibanez=.269 actual=.278

"Ibanez has surpassed his projection slightly."

8)Lopez=.228 actual=.259

"He's surpassed his projection thus far."

I was probably too subtle in by just how much.

9) Ichiro= .268 actual=.262

"he's essentially right on, and will probably surpass the projection at this rate."

This was a good exercise in validating what I said earlier. Thanks Tugboatcritic. I feel even more convinced what I said was correct after doing this. Then you've done nothing to take issue with my pitching and roster construction points. I am not sure what you were hoping to take issue with, but you seem to support me more than disagree with me.

Posted by tugboatcritic

2:05 PM, Aug 12, 2008

M's fan- It reads like batting average but by no means carries the same weight as batting average. A few points here and there isn't at all how I read that list anyway. There were some major discrepencies.

Had you looked into its origins, you would have noticed that the batting average similarities are pretty much for show. I would suspect that once plate appearences are factored in, the total runs difference would be striking. Little quips placed at the end of misinterpreting data doesn't validate you, Exile, it shows a lack of understanding. Sorry to go over your head with the stats.

Posted by Big Ebu

2:05 PM, Aug 12, 2008

thanks scrapiron

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

2:05 PM, Aug 12, 2008

"Your argument is mostly well-reasoned, but similar to the difficulty lawyers have in determining "intent", such as premeditated murder, or tax evasion/tax fraud."

I know a thing or two about this. The intent is determined by evidence. Speculation based on nothing but your feeling about things is not enough.

"Irrefutably, there have been far too many instances where Josť Lopez doesn't have his head completely in the game at second base."

It's a nice exercise to start your sentence with a word like irrefutably, but I don't give you the point because you used it. I don't know whether or not Jose has missed an easy play becuase he's not paying attention, or he's trying too hard to make the play and he gets ahead of himself. Either way, dogging it has the connotation that the person doesn't care about the result. I've yet to see any evidence of that put forth. You've provided nothing but your own speculation about that.

"I would assert that he needs to stay more focused in the field. Staying focused is something that is reasonably expected of these highly paid players. The fact that Lopez doesn't find the resolve to stay focused enough is reason to suggest that he's dogging it."

That simply doesn't follow, nor have you proved your initial premise - that Lopez is unfocused. He may be, but you don't know that. He botches plays out there from time to time, no doubt, but botched plays do not mean definite focus problems. He may just be a so-so defender. I don't have to agree that we blame focus first, and only after that skill level.

When a player shows up overweight, skips normal work-out routines, is seen eating hotdogs in-between innings, or starts to do dance numbers in the field, then I'd say there is evidence of dogging it. There are many possible explanations for Lopez's fielding problems, and I am not sure how you can claim to know which is the right one.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

2:19 PM, Aug 12, 2008

"Had you looked into its origins, you would have noticed that the batting average similarities are pretty much for show. "

Not according to THT (you know, the source):

"Gross Production Average, a variation of OPS, but more accurate and easier to interpret. The exact formula is (OBP*1.8+SLG)/4, adjusted for ballpark factor. The scale of GPA is similar to BA: .200 is lousy, .265 is around average and .300 is a star."


"Little quips placed at the end of misinterpreting data doesn't validate you, Exile"

No, being right validates me, in this case.


"Sorry to go over your head with the stats."

Nice try. The GPA stat isn't going to go over very many people's heads here or on the other M's blogs. I'm not sure what your angle is, but if you can't discuss these things with valid arguments (and again, you've not addressed my roster construction or pitching arguments) I am not sure why you are bothering to comment.

But tell me this. It seems all you did was plug the projection numbers from Zips into the THT formula. How exactly did you account for variances in the methods for computing the park factor? It seems you did nothing along those lines. You did read the part about the GPA metric including a park factor adjustment, right? Did you plug the actual M's stats into the GPA formula but not adjust for park factor, or did you pull the GPA number from the site somewhere? Do you know if the Zips projections include a park adjustment?

Posted by KennewickMan

2:20 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Geoff or anyone know why the Mariners placed Raul Ibanez on waivers over the weekend??

'Because of the injuries, Buster Olney thinks that the Rays will try and put a waivers claim on Raul Ibanez, but that the Red Sox will block that move by making a claim of their own.'

Reported by Peter Gammons also...

Posted by NB

2:20 PM, Aug 12, 2008

"It reads like batting average but by no means carries the same weight as batting average."

As someone with a poor mathematical background I'm confused by this statement.

Are you arguing that the GPA numbers are not intended to read similarly to batting average? If so the THT glossary disagrees.

"The scale of GPA is similar to BA: .200 is lousy, .265 is around average and .300 is a star. "

Or are you calling into question the quality of the metric? If that is the case why did you introduce it into the discussion?

Posted by '09 #1 Pick

2:27 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Strasburg and Team USA start Olympic play tonight (Wed. in Beijing) vs. Korea.

http://web.usabaseball.com/teams/index.jsp?team=940

http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/mtt/strasburg_stephen00.html

Posted by NadavT

2:30 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Just because nobody has mentioned it yet, Fangraphs presents a set of projections for each player, including Bill James's system, ZIPS, Marcel, and one called MINER. Of these, MINER appears to be the most pessimistic, and in the case of most of the Mariners, the most accurate:

MINER OPS Projections:

Ichiro: .716
Lopez: .665
Vidro: .689
Ibanez: .749
Beltre: .767
Sexson: .748
Johjima: .710
Wilkerson: .759
Betancourt: .683

So, pretty much like Fan in CO Exile said - some underperformance, some overperformance, but the essential message: this was never going to be a good team. With three regulars projected to have an OPS below .700, and only two projected to do better than .750, this team was going to need a lot of support from that hard-working rotation that Silva was talking about. We all know how that turned out.

Posted by scottM

2:36 PM, Aug 12, 2008

"dogging it has the connotation that the person doesn't care about the result."

But this is not necessarily true either. I presume (admittedly, a presumption, and nothing that I can prove) that Josť sometimes dogs it because he believes he can have the same preferred outcome as if he is bringing his "A" game. When he didn't assertively tag Upton the other night, I choose to think it was because he thought he had the tag easily made.

To turn this argument on its head (because neither of us can truly get inside Joseīs head), where is the evidence that Lopez is bringing his "A" game every night? The erratic play suggests otherwise.

Logically, all were doing here is arguing the choice of adjectives when describing Lopez's erratic play in the field. I do believe that Lopez has much room for improvement at 2B, due to the many, many sloppy plays I've seen this season. If he doesn't improve, he won't be playing the game much longer.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

2:36 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Thanks NadavT. I should have gone to Fangraphs to begin with.

Posted by ken

2:41 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Big Ebu: Chicago Sun-Times reports that White Sox plan to fill Contreras' spot internally and will pass on Wash. Probably not the worst news given that Washburn is now the second best starter on this very dismal starting rotation and we don't know if Morrow can make the transition to sp yet, whether JJ can regain his effectiveness, on & on. Also, after a godd first game with CWS, Junior is looking very old & with a very slow bat so this could be it for him. Very sad to see a once great player go out like Willie Mays did during his last season with the Mets.

Posted by Sounders

2:55 PM, Aug 12, 2008

It was delusional to think anyone would pick up Wash and give anything.

Howie and Chuckie must go!

Bag Out!

Do It Now!!!!

Until they're gone the M's will never be able to act from a position of strength in any deal, no way, no how

Posted by tugboatcritic

3:07 PM, Aug 12, 2008

NB as I understand it, GPA has a normalizing variable in order to make the numbers read like batting average, but they shouldn't be confused with it. The factors going into its figuring aren't similar. How is that questioning its value as a metric. Seems straight forward to me.

All I did was take data that both Geoff and Exile were using and went to the THT site to do some investigating. I read that they don't like OPS and to use GPA instead, so I did. I plugged the numbers in which are from ZIPS which I believe accounts for ballpark etc. The output was the results that I described.

My thought was that there was perhaps too broad a brush used to describe what in actuality turned out to be some large differences.

Regardless of ballpark adjustments, Exile used ZIPS numbers as did Geoff. However they determine the numbers, what actually has taken place differs. Whether or not they have factored this or that, they have made a prediction of what to expect, and that prediction varied from the reality of what has happened.

Finally, I made some comments up at the top regarding roster construction and the pitching staff that you must have missed Exile. Why would I now feel inclined to go through your every word when you won't do the same? My subsequent posts have addressed your line item critique of Geoffs work. But I see now that you are inclined to go metric shopping in an attempt to discredit (I guess) what I said about your use of the first. This is why I find it difficult to talk baseball with some of the more rabid sabr guys.

Posted by NightGame

3:30 PM, Aug 12, 2008

#1 M's sin: Poor plate discipline
#2 M's sin: Poor fundamentals

Posted by Tacoma Rain

3:32 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Guys,
You are confusing me...both Tug and M's Fan.
Either way you look at any of these numbers, there is NO WAY that anyone (EXCEPT BAVASI and Geoff) to think that the M's were going to contend this year.
Even taking Tug's numbers, and raising them to the pre-season predictions, AT BEST this was a 81 in team.
This is the point that Adam, and several others of us were stating at the BEGINNING of spring training, and most of the winter.
Hopefully those who were wrong will be able to acknowledge their mistakes in reasoning, and apply them towards the next series of moves that the M's make.

Posted by Pete

3:46 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Geoff-

To this I say "Duh?"

I'm not sure anyone is arguing that the team (nearly every individual player) is under-performing. You'll get no argument there.

The problem lies here -- even had the offense performed at near their career norms, it would still be average to below average. What in the offense's career norms indicates "playoff team?"

I'm not sure what the point of this entry is...

"Bad talent?" "Underachievement?" BOTH are true.

The Mariners are awful because they have average or below-average talent that is under-performing.

Not sure there's much of an argument here...

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

3:53 PM, Aug 12, 2008

"Whether or not they have factored this or that, they have made a prediction of what to expect, and that prediction varied from the reality of what has happened."

If by "they" you mean the Zips projections, the reality of what happened was worse in some cases, statistically the same in others, and much better in still others. Same with your modified GPA stats. That's what happens with every team, every year. I'd wager that you'll find few teams who hit the projection mark exactly with every player in every case. Sometimes you get teams who wildly underperform across the board, but I'll wager they are pretty rare.

"Finally, I made some comments up at the top regarding roster construction and the pitching staff that you must have missed Exile. Why would I now feel inclined to go through your every word when you won't do the same?"

You responded to my comment, not the other way around. I must not have read your earlier comment, and it seems odd to go back and search for every comment of yours to see if you pre-emptively addressed my points. That would be a ridiculous waste of time.

"My subsequent posts have addressed your line item critique of Geoffs work."

I don't feel that you've added any evidence that what I said was inaccurate. You may feel otherwise, but I don't see it.

"But I see now that you are inclined to go metric shopping in an attempt to discredit (I guess) what I said about your use of the first."

I don't know what this means. If you referring to Fangraphs, I think it's useful to have one site that pulls most of the projections together. You can see where they were relative to one another, and I think it's important to have many tools at your disposal to analyze a situation. I only picked Zips because Geoff mentioned it. I then went through your preference and came to essentially the same conclusion.

I'll address some of your earlier comments, since I now know they are out there:

"honestly think that one of the key mistakes made was by the FO. Not upgrading DH put a lot of pressure on an already suspect lineup."

I agree with this. The DH spot is supposed to be exclusively about production. Putting a hitter in there who doesn't produce is a serious waste of resources and a roster spot. Vidro was, throughout his tenure, the worst DH in the AL.

"While the Vidro hatefest was irrational. . . "

I don't know what this means, exactly. For my part, there is nothing irrational about becoming angry that the M's ran a player like Vidro out there in a spot that could have provided much more and helped the middle of the order. Anybody who hated the fact that he was a starter, even when the team was collapsing seems like a very rational person to me. I agree he was a better bench piece than starter.

". . . there is no denying that his lack of production, in the middle of the lineup hurt the chances of the club."

Agreed.

"4/5 of our rotation either stunk or was hurt through May. Not a good combination. "

Agreed. However, these were issues that were, in part, forseeable. Some steps to improve the team could have been in place when the quite possible turned to a reality.

"And if the in-fighting in the clubhouse is at the levels reported, an attitude and talent upgrade is needed in the future."

I agree a talent upgrade is in order. The in-fighting is a function of losing, in my view. Put talented players in the right roles, construct a roster in a fashion to cover over problem areas, and you'll soon find that the bickering becomes a non-issue.

Posted by Pete

3:55 PM, Aug 12, 2008

This was an 80-win team at career their career norms. 85 wins with a couple career years thrown in.

With Wilkerson, Johjima, Betancourt tanking (as well as Batista, Silva, etc), .... we have this mess.

Posted by M's Fan in CO Exile

3:56 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Tacoma Rain said, "You are confusing me...both Tug and M's Fan.
Either way you look at any of these numbers, there is NO WAY that anyone (EXCEPT BAVASI and Geoff) to think that the M's were going to contend this year. "

I don't disagree with this at all. My point is that the projections were close enough to actual performance that the fact the M's aren't contending was a predictable result, given roster construction issues. This isn't an underperformance issue, but a talent problem coupled with lack of understanding about how to fill out a roster.

Posted by scottweilandfan

4:01 PM, Aug 12, 2008

I think it is both, combined with some bad luck and some injuries. It's hard to argue guys like vidro and sexson (after his past season and a half) were very talented and just under achieving. I also dont think any one expected Putz and bedard to be so dinged up.

Posted by where are my pants?

4:11 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Huh? The M's are still playing? I hadn't noticed since about April.

If this team sucked any worse I'd worry about crimes against humanity charges being filed.

These jerks are just collecting paychecks and punching the time clock. I don't think I've seen a worse case of underachieving losers in my sports viewing life. These guys don't have one set of testicles among the entire 25 man roster.

Posted by Tacoma Rain

4:13 PM, Aug 12, 2008

M's Fan, we are in agreement.
However, I am baffled why this long string of debate.
The answer is probably BOTH, but if the talent was not there to begin with....
WHO CARES IF THE PLAYERS ARE UNDERPERFORMING????
This team was POORLY constructed with BAD players. PERIOD.
This team was never going to win 81 games. It never had a chance to win that many, because of of how Bavasi and Howard and LEE and Chuck and others in the M's FO think. These guys do not know baseball...they know business.

Posted by tikal002

4:37 PM, Aug 12, 2008

The answer is....... bad talent,
and even worst bad combinations. No #3,4,5 hitter in the list, you play 50% of your games in a stadium ment for speed running, defense, and you have a below average d ss and 2nd baseman, below average D from you LF, RF, catcher.
so lets see Geoffy:

Ichiro 2008 is a good year from your center fie, er, right fielder
Lopez better than expected by a long shot from the plate
Vidro who decided that the DH should clog the base paths and have no power??
Ibanez good year
Beltre throw out his steroid year and he will end up with an average year, more HR than average, same RBI's, sligtly lower BA
Sexson let see, he was sooo bad last year the manager pegged him for Comeback player of the year, nope ended up the same player.
Johjima only a fool would give a catcher pitchers hate 24 MM
Wilkerson - please
Betancourt what you see is what you get, year after year after year...

Obvious, this is the worst put together team in ML I have ever seen, and I used to be a Washington Senator fan.

Posted by Dave from the Coast

8:50 PM, Aug 12, 2008

I respect all the posters who wrestle around with numbers, projections, percentages, etc. I can't help it if my eyes glaze over when I try to read that stuff. I'm sure that number-crunchers everywhere could probably put together good teams, based upon statistical analysic, etc. What I see is lack of a consistently good attitude among management, trickling down to the players. The M's have just fallen behind the Angels on a Guerrero home run, so the Angels are ahead by 1, and the way things are going this season, 1 might as well be 1 million. The M's, all of them, have exactly NO incentive to play well at this point in the season. Everyone expected great things out of the M's before this season got underway; did the M's try too hard to live up to those expectations, falling flat on their faces? If so, those increased expectations are responsible for the M's brand of sup-par play at this point. What's being done to bolster the Morale and Attitude of the M's? Sadly, it's too late now, to do anything. It trickles down to the farm system. Brandon Morrow pitched miserably today in Tacoma. He's not just pitching, he's being 'groomed' to become a starter. Did he over-pressure himself? Players make tons of money, so money's not an incentive. What can be done to make these players, all of whom makes more than their boss, the Manager, want to excel and win? I just can't help but feel the M's are grinding it out now. You can speak of your percentages, projections, trends, analyses, whatever...but morale and incentive have a lot to do with how a player plays; indeed, how anyone does anything. I, for one, would like to see the M's do respectably. That's all. I know it will be a couple of centuries until they get to the Series. It's ironic that the really stupid "Fungo" M's spot is running these days...'cos I'm asking, "Where Did the Fun Go?"

Posted by Cheech

1:31 AM, Aug 13, 2008

Hmmmm? Under performing team, and not a team lacking talent you say. Reason because the players don't match their PECOTA ratings you say? Did you stop to consider the Mariners' coaching staff is an absolute joke?

"The correct answer is often the most simplest one."

Posted by Sky

8:15 AM, Aug 13, 2008

Fangraphs has a bunch of different projection systems readily available.

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