Assessment errors - strike 3

In the previous two parts, I noted that after the 2007 season, mistakes were made by ignoring pythag and by ignoring age issues before looking at 2008.  My third and final strike of assessment mistakes (to hopefully avoid in the future) is:  Don't get so focused on what was broken that you don't take time to at least attempt to keep what did work in fighting trim.

In 2007, the end of season assessment was that the back end of the rotation was to blame for not having done even better than the 88 wins the team achieved.  A commonly held belief was that if the club could get some decent talent in the 4/5 rotation slots, 2008 would be Gold.  The actions taken by the team appeared to echo those sentiments, as the club replaced HoRam and Weaver with Bedard and Silva.

Okay, not many were thrilled with Silva.  But, there wasn't much available on the FA market, and the club had to send a king's ransom to acquire Bedard. 

In 2007, the best part of the team was the bullpen, and the offense, while not stellar, had produced a 103 OPS+, was 3rd in hits, 2nd in BA, and 7th in both slugging and OBP. 

The problem here is one I've mentioned previously - OVERSIMPLIFICATION.  The 4/5 slots were bad.  No denying that.  But the bullpen was heavily pushed by great years by Putz and Sherrill.  The rest of the pen was a mixed bag of potential and inconsistency.

A COMPLETE assessment of the team might have changed the dynamic of the off-season moves, and might have saved the club a horrid season, (and Bavasi his job).  As a rule, it is easiest to fix what is worst on a team -- so focusing on the 4/5 spots in the rotation wasn't bad by itself.  It was just too selective, and the club completely missed the boat on a number of issues that suggested work was needed elsewhere.

1) What did you finish last (or close to last) in?  This is a good question of the EASIEST places to generate improvement.  The 2007 hitters finished 14th of 14 in walks.  They also finished 12th in doubles, triples and 10th in HRs.  The league averaged .151 in ISOLATED power, while Seattle had a miserable .138, (11th in the AL).  The offense was average, but was pushed by batting average, (one of the least reliable hitting stats).  The club also had generated its high BA thanks to a .313 BABIP, (league avg was .305). 

The offense opted not to re-sign Guillen.  If you think you're close, then you want to do EVERYTHING you can to push for the next season.  This would've been a perfect time to go after someone like Dunn or Abreu, who could bring both walks and power to the lineup.  Instead, the club went and got Wilkerson for the job.  Wilkerson actually had those traits.  So, truthfully, the club DID see the problem, and then bungled the fix, cheaping out.

Honestly, though, too muh of the club was under guaranteed contracts and were unmoveable.  Sexson wasn't going anywhere, and Vidro was signed for multiple years. 

The team also finished 13th in Defensive Efficiency, (and 13th in hits allowed).  The one regular they swapped out certainly wasn't viewed as a major defensive coup.  And nothing was done elsewhere to remedy a horrible situation. 

The 4/5 starters got the bulk of the blame for coming up short in 2007, when in fact, the defense should have shouldered most of the blame.  As bad as Weaver was, he had a better K/BB ratio than EITHER Washburn or Batista.  And Cha Seung Baek had a better K/BB ratio than Felix. 

But, the fixation on the 4/5 slots ignored the myriad other flaws with the team.  While the club attempted to bandaid the walk and power issue, they bungled that job.  But, they didn't address the defensive issues at all.  And they removed a leg from one of their strong parts when they traded away Sherrill. 

So -- before we begin to assess where the club stands heading into 2010, let me re-iterate the three arenas where assessment errors were made after 2007, in hope that the same mistakes won't arise again.

  • Don't Ignore Pythag
  • Don't Ignore Age
  • Don't monofocus on a single problem area - look for them ALL





...none of Bavasi's individual moves can be blamed for his failure as a GM.  The biggest reason he couldn't build a winner was that he didn't work hard enough.  Yes I mean that quite literally.  While other GMs are out there every day plundering the back ends of other clubs' minor league system for all important stoploss and filler that can save the embarrassment that was the 4/5 slots in the Mariner rotation in 2007...Bavasi made a few signature moves and went with a philosophy where the starters and role players would have 100% solid assigned tasks.  He never bothered to make a plan B, C, D, E, F, G, and Z.
The difference between Zduriencik and Bavasi became INSTANTLY apparent when, in his first offseason he signed approximately 547 trillion relievers and first basemen.  THAT"S where Bavasi failed hardest.


You don't make it in a Major League front office, let alone stick around as a GM for a decade, if you aren't willing to slave 60-80 hours every week. And Bavasi did take fliers on tons of players, most simply didn't pan out (just as most of the players Jack picked up in the offseason did squat). Also, the M's offense was TERRIBLE for most of this year, especially at the beginning, with lots of gaping holes yet Z didn't do ANYTHING about it for months and basically nothing substantial the whole year. Does that mean he's lazy? Give me a break.
"Bavasi made a few signature moves and went with a philosophy where the starters and role players would have 100% solid assigned tasks."
Bull. That wasn't Bavasi, that was Hargrove! Grover insisted on playing "his" guys day-after-day no matter what. This is the guy who absolutely refused to play a rookie Manny Ramirez, prefering a crappy platoon of garbage vets instead, and had to have a gun held to his head to do so. With the Mariners, Hargrove didn't even want to change the order of the lineup! To blame this stubborness on Bavasi is absolutely ridiculous.
It's also why I long ago grew tired of people's "analysis" of Bavasi because they ignore the actual dynamics of the org and the fact that Bill's hands were tied. The reality is that it is impossible to do a quality evaluation of Bavasi's time in Seattle because he was stifled from the very beginning in a way almost no other GM was. If he had the freedom just about every other peer have things would have turned out radically different, most likely for the better.


...I did, however, say he didn't work as hard as Zduriencik, and I stand by that claim.  How many waiver claims, minor trades and very low cost free agent signings did Bavasi make in his tenure?  How many did Zduriencik make his very first year?
And I don't see where you get off claiming Zduriencik did absolutely nothing about the offense.  If Beltre and Branyan hadn't gotten hurt and decapitated the line-up, Seattle's offense would have finished significantly stronger than it did...his acquisitions of Langerhans, Wilson, Hall and Hannahan were all intended to address black holes in the offense.  He didn't go out and acquire a big name...the team didn't have the resources to do that.  But he did everything a GM can possibly do to try to minimize the damage of his weaker line-up spots.


What is your guess as to whether Bavasi's going to get another crack at it with some other org?
Other teams know the same things you know, plus a lot more, about the circumstances under which Bavasi worked.
Nice to see one other guy shooting around the same corner.  If I read one more "Bill Bavasi, the gift that keeps on giving!" sneer, I'm going to toss my cookies.


Do you or do you not deny the fact that Bavasi didn't go out and acquire as many fallback options on the cheap as Zduriencik has?  Do you or do you not deny that what few cheap fill-ins Bavasi bothered to acquire were notably less "high-upside" than the types of players Zduriencik tries?
I was a Bavasi DEFENDER during his tenure.  I think his basic process was flawed but workable under the right circumstances, and I think he was a good guy and obviously very bright to get where he did in the game.  But don't kid yourself...Zduriencik is working a LOT harder at plugging the holes than Bavasi ever's not even particularly close.

Taro's picture

I think Bavasi was just flat awful at player evaluation. He was like a DH who couldn't hit or a SP with an 80mph fastball. He just isn't cut out for the GM spot IMO. Hes more of an owner/president type.


You weren't comparing Bavasi to Z only, you were comparing him to all other GM's in baseball. So proving that Bavasi was inferior in one aspect to Jack doesn't support your claim. Just to get some facts, though, I counted up 26 players aquired during Bavasi's first year on the job (not including players signed during the season to fill minor league holes). I'm guessing at a minimum that's near average. You also have to take into account that the team was coming off a 93-win season and the former GM was still pulling levers which meant Bavasi was not allowed to turn over the roster much and was often told what to do (sign Raul Ibanez, trade that bum Carlos Guillen, don't spend big bucks on any player). It wasn't until a couple months into the season (approaching a year after he took over officially) that he finally got some autonomy.


(It was supposed to be the primary response to this comment and is more important)
Matt, the list of players you bring up to prove Z's hard work at addressing the teams offensive woes only makes my point. Hannahan and Langerhans were stop gaps brought in to replace injured players, not to boost the offense. Hall has been terrible for a couple years and was grabbed late in the year. He was not a serious attempt to help the offense but a merely a flier on a player Z liked from Milwaukee. So only Jack Wilson was acquired in order to improve on a position player Z started the season with, and that came in July and it was primarily for his defense and character.
So as I said, Jack did NOTHING for the offense for several months, and nothing significant ever.


The point is...every winter Mariner fandom would identify like two-dozen different players Bavasi could acquire for practically no cost and every winter, he'd acquire one or two pricey stopgaps instead.  He clearly preferred (or Mariner front office execs preferred) plugging every hole he could with free agents with established track records over acquiring the types of players Zdureicnik has been going after.
The reason?  He wanted to get stoploss (like every GM does) and he didn't want to have to grind away continuously to get it...he didn't feel secure until he locked all of his roster spots in.


There was nothing TO DO! for the offense...he tried to swing a couple of different deals to get bats in the offseason, including Zobrist.  Those players don't grow on trees and are hard to acquire.  He got the players that could be gotten at all with his budgetary constraints.


I'd say that Branyan was significant.  I'd also say Sweeney was significant.  One was an immediate commitment and fantastic replacement for an empty position, (at bargain prices).  The other was a flier on a guy most had given up on that ultimately proved to work, (though there were a number of dirt cheap guys that might have blocked that slot).
I see 1.5 wins with the offense, (everyone else was a holdover - most were fixed contracts not easily dumped).  One was VERY significant.


You're missing the point. The fact is that he made NO personnel acquisitions after the season started until someone got hurt. Knowing that, you still insist that he did EVERYTHING humanly possible to rectify the offense. So then the lesson should be clear: you can't judge a GM's day-to-day effort based on how many players he obtained.


From April 2004 to March 2005, Bavasi acquired 23 players, and NONE of them are the mediocre-but-pricey players you insist he coveted. The only proven players he signed to Major league contracts during that time were Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson and Pokey Reese. That's it. And Beltre and Sexson were signed to be major contributors, not stop gaps, and Reese was just a cheap, one year guy to keep shortstop warm until Betancourt was ready to take over. I liked that move at the time and I don't see any problem with it in hindsight.
The other players he brought in included Sean Green (a nice, dirt cheap bullpen arm), Jon Huber (who was looking solid until Hargrove took him to the woodshed, having him throw 55 pitches in one outing), Brett Everett and Danny Reichert (guys Dave Cameron liked) and Jorge Campillo (who could have been a quality starter if he had stayed healthy).
Bavasi's effort and strategy were fine. The problem was a combination of mediocre talent-evaluation and a dysfunctional organization.


1) In-season moves are generally more expensive than off-season moves (trades usually backfire for the team giving up potential in a mid-season deal to rectify in-season problems and free agent acquisitions end up costing ore dollars per win added).  Bavasi tried to fix offensive holes mid-season a couple of times and those deals always ALWAYS backfired.  The fact that Zduriencik didn't do this is PRAISE, not an indictment.  Zduriencik added talent as the roster changes allowed for zero cost and got significant offensive improvements in most of those additions.
2) The pool of available players in-season is less than it is in the off-season.
All of which is to say...when I talk about the work done by the GM to gets back-up plans in case things go wrong, I'm talking about this list:
Russell Branyan
Mike Sweeney
Franklin Gutierrez
Chris Shelton
Mike Carp
Endy Chavez
Jerry Owens
Brad Nelson
Jason Vargas
Garrett Olson
Tyler Johnson
David Aardsma
Chad Cordero
Ronny Cedeno
Ezequiel Carrera
Steven Bray
Steve Moss
(those being the off-season moves for depth and to plug holes)
Just as much as I'm talking about this list:
Alex Cintron
Guillermo Quiroz
Josh Wilson
Chris Woodward
Mike Koplove
Robert Manuel
Steven Shell
Jack Hannahan
Ryan Langerhans
Jack Wilson
Luke French
Mauricio Robles
Ian Snell
Bill Hall
(the in-season acquisitions)
When was there ANY time where Bill Bavasi acquired that much depth?  Between those two lists, that's a HUGE number of warm bodies keeping minor league affiliates and the big league afloat when plan A went wrong.  Bavasi would never EVER have traded away Betancourt in the middle of the season.  He'd never have been agile enough to go out and grab replacement for people when they got hurt without giving up important prospects.  He'd never have worked this sheer volume of transactions.  There's just no way.  I'm not saying all of his acquisitions were GREAT...some of them didn't work at all.  But I am CERTAINLY more confident that he will be able to keep things from cratering than I was that Bavasi would.


You are the one who keeps harping on a point that was tangental to the disagreement at hand. You claimed that Bavasi had a worse work ethic than just about all other GM's. I responded to that broad point. But rather than defend that broad point, you keep going on and on and on about how much better Jack Z is than Bavasi. Why, I don't know. Do you think that Z represents a typical, run-of-the-mill GM? Do you think he is highly fungible and that just about any other GM in the business would have operated the same way as he has done? If that's what you think, then say so. If, on the other hand, you think he is an excellent GM who is better than most of his peers, then focusing on what he has done is unfair.


2008 -- Wilkerson stinks, and the "move" is to dump Wilkerson, but NOT to go and get anyone.  Instead, it was to juggle Reed, Willie and Wlad in the OF. 
When they finally dumped Sexson, LaHair came up. 
Heck, the only in-season acquisition I can think of was Jared Wells, (for Baek).
But, hey.  One could argue the season was over by the end of May, so it was pointless to make moves.  Except that is PRECISELY the time to make moves.  We got to see a bunch of ABs for LaHair, Reed and Willie.  Clement only got PT because Johjima was hitting so bad that even that bunch couldn't stomach giving him more than 112 games.
But, 2007 under Hargrove was a season with a dynamic VERY similar, (in terms of pennant race), to 2009.  What were the in-season moves to help THAT team?  Well, the offense that began the year, played all year.  Sexson was the only guy not to make 135 starts, and Broussard, his backup one day one, stepped in.
The sum total of moves where new talent was acquired, was Jason Davis from the Indians, (for Rosario).  I can't find another move to tweak the roster.
Despite a 4/5 that were HORRID to begin the year, Baek, and Feierabend and were the only guys to start who weren't on the opening day roster.  (RRS was only used in relief).
The comparison for in-season moves for Bavasi to Z is humongous.  Others, (not me), may believe he waited too long to make some of his moves.  But, look at the bats that came into Seattle AFTER April 1st:
Hannahan - Langerhans - Jack Wilson - Josh Wilison - Bill Hall
That's five guys brought in for a team that was offensively crippled to try and help.  But, this was not a club that JUST relied on veteran bats.  They ALSO brought up Carp, Shelton, Woodward, Tui, Moore, and Saunders. 
Z's pre-season pick of Cedeno to backup YuBet was a collosal failure.  But, he didn't just go out and roll the dice on ONE GUY.  You're looking at 5 extra bats to at least TRY and fix what ailed the team from outside, and another half dozen from within the organization. 
That doesn't I mean I agree with Matt's assessment.  I don't view it as Bavasi being "lazy".  I view it as (more likely), that he was probably trying to get deals done, and very simply put, COULDN'T. 
Bavasi picked HoRam ... who stunk ... and who continued to play.
Z picked Olson, Vargas ... who stunk ... and who got moved to the pen and replaced with Snell, and French ... who stunk ... and got replaced with Fister.
There's little evidence to suggest Z is any better at talent recognition than Bavasi, (oh, I can hear the scream of disbelief).  But, Bavasi's regime was one where once you got a big contract, you played ... period.  (and he loved doling out big contracts).  Z's tenure thus far has been one that says ... you'll get some time to show your stuff, but if I'm not happy with the EFFORT, you're gone quick.  If I'm not happy with the production, you might stick around awhile longer, but I'll shelve even guys *I* handpicked, if I can find someone that I think can do the job better.
Cedeno, Olson and Vargas were Z choices.  Maybe Cedeno got too much rope.  Or, maybe it just a little more time for Z to assemble a deal to address the situation.  In either case, he DID make a deal, and he did eventually get a SS playing who posted an OPS 80 points higher than the guy he started the season with. 
The Manager typically gets the credit/blame for allowing a clubhouse to crash and burn, or keep them up and going.  But, if the rich and entitled just loaf thru their weeks, the manager can ONLY make moves with the personnel the GM gets for him.  The REALLY good organizations have a synergy between Manager and GM, where the moves the club makes SUPPORT what the manager is asking on the field.  When a club doles out 3/24 contracts to the worst hitter on the team, the manager's ability to say, "I need more production!" is going to be greeted with laughter, (hopefully stifled). 
No, I don't think Bavasi was lazy.  I think in the deal-making department he was simply incompetent.  Which is why he had trades like Soriano for HoRam -- and giving the farm, cannery, plantation house, servant quarters, and his eldest daughter to get Bedard.


and continuing to blissfully ignore the very important organizational dynamics outside of Bavasi's control that played a critical role in shaping the roster, you agree with me. Thanks. Now explain why to Matt because he is the one who has hard time understanding how just because Bavasi isn't as good as Jack Z that doesn't mean that Bavasi wasn't as aggressive and hard working as most GM's.


...there are many GMs who are at the very least as proactive and aggressive as Zduriencik.  I think Z is better than most in the game at judging talent, but that's only a vague impression at the moment since he hasn't had more than a single year to judge.
Bavasi is an epic failure when it comes to player talent judgment, and at the very least a general failure when it comes to proactive and aggressive work on the roster.


...that the Mariners front office (above Bavasi) were making the call that HoRam HAD to keep pitching?  That the black-hole bats HAD to keep hitting?  If that's the suggestion, then I don't know what to say other than to laugh hysterically at the improbability of that.  Sorry, no.  As much as the FO might have been committed to its BIG certainly wasn't commit to Horacio Ramirez or Willie Bloomquist or Brad Wilkerson or Jeff Weaver or any of those stop-gap picks.  That was BAVASI'S call to stick with his failures hoping they'd eventually succeed and make him look better.


... from the couple of posts I've read, and check me if I'm wrong, because have only scanned a few ...
SABRMatt has done a better job than you of sticking to substance and avoiding the "after all that blissful ignorance and empty verbiage you finally wake up" type of personal swipes.
Your material hits with Curry-like impact, as usual.  But I don't think you want to lose a people-skills contest to Matt :- )
J/K Matty.  You know we love y'bro.  :- D
In any case, whoever loses the personal-skills matchup to this point... let's all avoid the personal judgments and win the debates with logic and facts.
It hasn't been a big deal up to here, but a little snideness is like a cigarette flicked into internet-dry-brush.  :- )


But it gets frustrating when people seem more interested in being difficult than dealing with the meat of my arguments.  Again, Matt made a specific claim, which I responded to, but rather than defend that claim he goes off about something that doesn't prove his claim and refuses to get back on subject. Add on top of that Sandy interjecting himself into the debate in a way that makes it seem like he's arguing against me despite not actually disagreeing with my main point. It seemed like he was just trying to jab me instead of moving the debate forward. If you agree with me, then say "I agree with you" instead of writing a bunch of critical things.
"SABRMatt has done a better job than you of sticking to substance"
He might seem substantive, but only because he has changed the terms of the disagreement from "Bavasi doesn't work as hard as other GM's in general" to "Bavasi wasn't as aggressive as Zduriencik in particular". Yes, he has proven the latter very effectively, but that was never in doubt! What he hasn't done is provide any support for the former claim. I have looked up every player Bavasi brought into the organization in his first two years which is close to 50. Some of those players were exactly the type of savvy pickup Matt claims Bavasi eschewed. Does Matt have any clue how that compares to a typical GM? Does he realize that Tony Reagins brought in only 7 new players his entire first year with the Angels and only 3 the next, and NONE of those players were the type of smart acquisition Matt claims all other GM's do routinely? No, he doesn't, which is why he so quickly shifted ground.


Did you read my two posts below this one (title "Don't shift the goal posts" and "How many")? Do you think those are lacking in substance?


Read my freakin' posts, CPB.  This claim that I have changed my position or my argumentative strategy is completely bogus.  My position is still that Bavasi didn't work as hard as the average GM (I'm comparing him to Zduriencik because I believe most teams operate much closer to how the '09 Mariners did than to how any of Bavasi's Mariners teams did)...and I want to be clear that I'm not claiming Bavasi was LAZY...I'm claiming he was chronically uncreative and literally could not THINK OF the kinds of patch-over moves that Zduriencik was trying out left and right.  I'm claiming that Bavasi wasn't comfortable taking fliers on guys and trying out any new combination he could get his hands on the way Zduriecnik does because of a combination of a flawed initial philosophy (he believed that ballplayers in general do better when they have 100% assigned roles handed to them, Zduriencik believes competition makes players better) and a lack of confidence in any fliers he might take.  I think in this way, he didn't work hard enough to address problems as they appeared on the roster.
If the ossification of the roster was limited to the high-priced guys he signed, then maybe I could see the argument for it being the higher-ups dictating to Bavasi that he had to stick with guys...but he stuck with medium-priced and low-priced guys way too long as well (Weaver, HoRam, Vidro, Betancourt, Bloomquist, Reed, Burke etc.)


You think Zduriencik is close to a typical GM. Now provide SOME reason for any of us to believe that. I don't doubt for a second that Z is a much better GM than Bavasi. What I doubt is that Z is in the same class as, say, Tony Reagins or Ned Colletti or bunch of other GM's. I think he is much better than them, so going into detail about how superior Jack is to Bavasi doesn't advance your argument.


grrrrrrrrrrrr... I'm gonna make a Halloween movie out of you feebs... with no F/X dept need apply...

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