Rewind a month or so? the vibe says Chris Taylor at the pole position for startin' shortstop.
Then again, the vibe says lots. The vibe definitely had Willie "$3 Million" Bloomquist as the backup shortstop. You didn't need the vibe to figure the rest: Brad Miller needed to hit .419 in March to make the traveling squad.
Present Day. Camp opens, Willie still has the $3 large guaranteeeeed ... but the shot-callers sound an awful lot like "If Brad Miller feels solid with the glove, he's in there." And why not. There's a real shortage of $507,500 players who rack you up four to five WAR.
This were true whether Miller hit the 4-5 WAR jackpot this year or next. It's worth a simoleon, is it not? What did Benihana call those players, the Great White Whales of the MLB oceanic tundra? Brad Miller is far-and-away our best ticket at that now.
Meanwhile, camp hasn't even opened yet and Jack Z is ordering extra ice for Willie's knee (yes, really). I loooov eeeet.
Sounds to us like "If Taylor wins the job, we'll stash Willie in Tacoma until that knee pushes it real good, so Brad can hang 'round. If Brad wins it, fine, let Taylor bop around Tacoma for a month or three."
Dr. D takes great exception to this delicate sense of coherency and intuition. It is playing havoc with his 20 years' worth of experience in committee-watching. Used to be, SSI could read the script on Feb. 22, knock off three months' worth of articles, and then retire to the HD to let SABRMatt :: headdesk :: into the wild blue yonder. :- )
So, the last few years, Jack Z just keeps throwing Dr. D one surprisingly juicy stew bone after another. Dr. D can't adjust. We keep driving the lane expecting the "By The Book" committee play, and Jack Z keeps serving up the Spalding Sandwiches.
Back in 1995, Silentpadna and I coined the "Stars & Scrubs" term as sort of a secret weapon in rotisserie, a shortcut that allowed top-3 finishes with almost no waiver time spent.
Since then, BaseballHQ adopted the term and it's become an institution. (This was right after Dr. D and Algore invented the interwebs.) Stars & Scrubs is the "correct" way to configure a roster, "correct" in the sense that passing the football is the right way to play in the NFL. In Bill Walsh's era, this was sort of an edgy idea ... sure, there are exceptions to any single rule of thumb. The Seahawks are an exception. But passing is inherently better, as S&S is inherently better.
Last year Billy Beane was on the radio, and he said something like "The Yankees have $200M, but we have the ability to change our roster midseason." Let that saying sink deep into your ears. So that makes Stars & Scrubs worth HOW much?
You have triple the resources. But you use Civics and we use Stars & Scrubs, so we're even steven. As baseball percentages go, 300% is a nice percentage.
It's not quite good enough to just swap two Civics for one star and one black hole, like this:
|2014 DH||Don't make me look||70, at best|
If you do that, which is doing it wrong, then you break even. BaseballHQ has run the numbers. One star and one catastrophe equals two Civics.
You get dangerous when you start swapping out catastrophes for "overachieving" low-cost players, those who outperform their contracts. SCRUBS AREN'T BAD PLAYERS; they are OVERPERFORMING players.
The 2015 Mariners have this, in Rickie Weeks and Jesus Montero and Justin Ruggiano and Chris Taylor. What is the chance of Brad Miller outperforming a $507,500 contract? You got it.
Seattle Sports Insider had assumed Chris Taylor at short, because that's what Mike Hargrove would have done. But Hargrove ain't running the show any more. Jack Z and Lloyd M have a taste for dynamic performance, as opposed to a taste for well-reinforced safety nets. They got my vote.
The vibe sez that Miller has to prove he can play short. :: shrug :: If you say so. Miller was slightly plus defensively in 2014, both per UZR and per John Dewan.
I'm stunned: the fans' scouting report, on Fangraphs, is dead-on nails accurate. Is it always that way? ... Carefully blending that, and Dewan's directional breakdowns, and Dr. D's section-339 scouting report on Brad Miller's glove:
|Task||Rating COMPARED TO ML AVERAGE (very high standard)|
|GB in hole||5.5 of 10 (he got plenty 'nuff on this key play)|
|GB up middle||5.0 (LH, RH? He's totally amphibious)|
|Charge the slow-hopper||5.0|
|Roam for the popup||7.0 (gets you back some plays with speed)|
|Instincts||5.0 to 6.0|
|First step & speed||6.0|
|Release||4.0 (not super quick-snappy)|
6.0 at least
|Arm accuracy||4.0 (tough standard to hit here)|
|Sure-handedness||4.0 (jittery compared to, let us say, Brendan Ryan)|
|Creativity, body control||5.0|
People are going to focus, and re-focus, and focus some more, on Miller's "yips." (GRROOOAAAANNnnnnnnn.) Like they focused on Miguel Olivo's passed balls because that was the only thing he didn't do well, and it's kind of important, so it's a chance to make a statement that you "know the game."
You want to learn the game? Look at the total package once in a while, why don'cha. So Brad Miller is a shortstop who is more RESULTS than "PRETTY." Sue him. If you want to oooo'h and aaaa'h, get you Jack Wilson. That's what Mike Hargrove would do.
But if you're just about bases gained and bases lost -- top and bottom halfs of the inning, now! -- Miller's (potential) bat more than carries his glove. Scratch that. His glove don't need to be carried anyhow. Maybe by the replacement-level ASU grad.
There's a lizard in the cellar: Miller's struggles vs LHP's have been all too real. Miller is quick, but he's also long, and tricksy lefthanders can embarrass him. That may be true for another coupla years.
There should be a roster config in which you take a little pressure off Miller, cut him 30 games' worth of slack against the David Prices of the world. If Taylor is your "utility infielder," no problems there.
Early on in camp, they're making noises like Brad Miller can be our shortstop. And I'm blinkin' likin' it.