This Shoulda Worked
... and for some guys, it does work

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The M's played well again in Detroit.  Four good games, and a 1-3 record.  They used ta call this kinda thing "star-crossed."  Nowadays we're not superstitious; we just realize that the 116-win season overdrafted our 100-year karma account.

J.A. Happ, our #5 starter, held a tough lineup to 4 hits in 7.0 innings.  After 7, They: suppressed.  We: 8 hits and 4 walks with a HR, only 5 K's.  We had a lead, we had Lowe for the 8th and Smith for the 9th. 

So why did the Mariners lose?  Dr. D puts this one down to "We never score 8 runs."  In every sport, you've got to have a nice percentage of gimmes.  If in some games -- say, in THIS game -- the M's had put up 8 runs, then Lowe's margin for error wouldn't have been hair-fine.

.......

So why does the offense never score 8 runs?  The batters are the same ones as last year, except for Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith for the DH and for Michael Saunders.  It shoulda worked.  In spring training WE, you and I and SABRMatt, thought it would work.  If we'd told you that Nelson Cruz would hit 35 homers in Safeco and Seth Smith would have a career year ... well, in March this 25-man roster was great by YOU as a General Manager, was it not?

There are a lot of things in life that are like this.  You do absolutely everything right, and it's supposed to work, and it just doesn't.  Ask a parent some time ... :- )  Dr. D confidently predicts that if you or I or Paul DePodesta were given a team to GM, five years later we would find ourselves blinking at our train wreck in mystified fashion.

It is the conceit of 140-IQ men that if you simply accumulate enough facts, if you simply learn enough, then you must find Utopia.  Science alone cures all ills, goes this script ... Fangraphs, of course, standing in for "science" in this metaphor.  But the world is far more scientific than it used to be, and except for antibiotics* :- ) it is less successful, not more.  Paul DePodesta shoulda worked.  It didn't.

There are a few men, such as Bill James, who have respect for the complexity of the problem.  They understand that there's a spiritual dimension to championships.

........

It is the marriage of science/knowledge, human intuition, talent, and luck that puts a competitor at the top of his field (where you and I are not).  I just talked to a super-expert about my choices for upcoming medical treatments.  I got rolling on this medical study and that one and he stopped me right there.  He told me, you can analyze this all you want, and so can the university board.  But the board has not had your experiences, doesn't live in your body, and doesn't have your subconscious understanding of what is going on in your body.  GUT FEELINGS, when used in the right way, often trump our DESIRES and our ANALYSIS (which coincidentally wind up in the same place!).  There is no sheet full of formulas that can match the supercomputer that is your subconscious mind.  Educate yourself all you can, but understand the answer won't be found in a formula.  Not unless it's a really simple answer, like "Who is better?  Nelson Cruz or the last ten DH's?"

Here's a quote from Field Gulls from NFL Insiders:

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"At the end of the day, the won-lost record of your quarterback and the leadership goes hand-in-hand," a former GM told Sando. "He has been in the last two Super Bowls. You can say all you want about the defense, but the Bills had a good defense the last two years. What did it get them? Wilson has that late-game magic."

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And as you and I know, part of Russell Wilson's "magic" is his personality.  He's not smarter than Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford and he's not more talented.  Russell Wilson has different ATTITUDES:  

  • Different self-belief
  • Different mistake avoidance and "gunslinging" balance
  • Different resilience
  • Different willingness to learn
  • Different ways of relating to his teammates (far more positive, non-self-absorbed, and inspirational)
  • Different everything in terms of personality.  

Wilson's attitude --- > shapes the 0.2 second decisions he makes whether to throw footballs or not throw them.  His teammates sense Wilson's attitudes and they become different people via his influences.

It's such a shame that Western civilization thinks that success is 100% intelligence and 0% character.  Eastern civilization does not believe this for one second.  How Eurocentric we are ...

Dustin Ackley shoulda worked.  Justin Smoak shoulda worked.  Jesus Montero shoulda worked.  At minimum, ONE of them shoulda worked.  You feel sorry for Jack Zduriencik.  He shoulda worked.

Zduriencik does not have the Pat Gillick, Tony Larussa, Lou Piniella late-game magic.  Not very many people do.  Who is your choice for the GM to show (1) comprehensive saber knowledge, (2) staggering on-field comprehension, and (3) the intuition that sets him apart?

I dunno either.  ... in the short term, there are a lot of Mariners who are fun to watch, and the M's talent pyramid is loaded with possibilities.  It's exactly the kind of  low-performance, high-talent team that has candidates fighting to get to the plate.   You turn them around on a dime and you look like a tree full of owls.

There are a few things that we can identify as part of the problem.  A great organization, like the Seahawks', has a "We're all in this together" atmosphere.  According to Eric Wedge, this regime fails miserably on this count.  According to very many of the M's employees, Zduriencik alienates a lot of people.  According to Bill James, the typical MLB GM has an amazing level of "personal grace," ability to charm and build consensus and keep people on the same sheet of music.

An on-field example?  Personally I don't like the palpable resentment that Z has displayed toward, say, Jesus Montero.   It's easy to visualize a Pat Gillick making different decisions about Montero's callups.  Which different decisions?  Don't ask Dr. D.  He doesn't have the magic.

The only few years that the M's org actually worked, it pulled together behind Pat Gillick's mesmerizing authority (even Howard Lincoln deferred to him).  You think Mather is interested in finding somebody like that and throwing him the ball?

Me either.

BABVA,

Dr D

Comments

1

Way back in ST our potential holes were CF, 1B. and a COF spot (we were all assuing that Cruz would DH mostly).  

Well....what do you know?

1.  Austin Jackson has been better, but he couldn't have been worse.  He's still only at an 87 OPS, gets on base only 30% of the time, has almost no pop and isn't a good enough glove (see Paul Blair) to cover up his bat.  CF remains a weakness.

2.  Logan Morrison remains a "league average" bat (over the last two years, anyway....he's below average this year) at a position that demands being 15-25% (or more) better than the league average. He's a decent player, one who may have a year or two of being very good....but, with a year left on his contract, he may be more valuable to us in trade.  I likely keep him, just because I'm not sure we can get much for him!

3. Smith, Weeks and Rugi were to fix our COF spots.  I think we all knew Smith would hit...but the other two guys had question marks (although not huge ones) attached.  Two of them are gone now.  Rugi actually wasn't hurting us that bad (95 OPS)...and he's hitting a healthy .293-.384-.507 in Tacoma. Ackley has failed to hit, again, so basically we've spent the year with a COF who isn't hitting...or a DH, really, because Cruz is a fulltime COF, really, and Smith hits.  Trumbo has shown a pulse lately, but his OPS is still just 55 with us.

Soooooo, we've had a weak bat in CF, a weaker bat at 1B ("weaker" compared to the positional demands) and a weak bat at LF or DH, take your pick.

Zunino's glove, staff handling and framing ability make him a heck of a player if his bat is 80 OPS+.  Were he a 100 OPS player he would be superb.  But he's hitting .163 and gets on base 23% of the time.  He makes contact so infrequently that his natural power does not dome in to play very often.  

That's 4 positions where we've had weak or weaker bats.  Two of them really demand production.

And I haven't even mentioned the looooooong struggle of Cano.  He's now up to 95 OPS...but that isn't what we expected.  Something 135+ would be about what you would wager on.

Cruz has packed us, with Smith, Seager and Miller (more than covering the bat demands for his position) pitching in.  But 1 smokin' bat and 3 better than average one doesn't not make for a bunch of 8 run ballgames.  

We are terrible offensively.  We are offensively offensive.  

There's been no Edgar magic yet.  And it is worth remembering that McClendon made his mark, not as a Pirate manager, but as a Tiger hitting coach. It would be nice to get some indication from our guys that Mac helped V-Mart or Cabrera.

And we dislike Montero, who eats lefties for lunch.

Sigh.  

Hey bartender, make that scotch a double!  I need it.

Moe

 

That's one reason we're not very good.

2

You said it exactly right w/r/t Montero. Resentment so obvious that we can plainly see it sitting here at our keyboards. How do you think it comes across in the clubhouse? I get it, Montero screwed up multiple times. But either give an ultimatum and cut bait, or give the kid a real second chance (not just false words). The latest callup withstanding, I don't think Zduriencik truly believes in giving Montero another chance.

Another thing I've been thinking about. For all of the talk early on in the Z-regime about looking for dirt dogs and baseball rats in the draft, Z's teams has a surprising lack of swagger, attitude, and grit. Ackley, Smoak, and Montero are all examples of this. Nick Franklin had swagger, but we shipped him out. I think even Fister had it. Aardsma had some of it too (and had great success). When I watch other teams like the Royals, Giants, Nationals, etc I see a bunch of guys who want to WIN and get angry when they don't.

3
GLS's picture

I don't think we know enough about Kevin Mather to know what sort of GM he'll target. What we do know is that this offseason is Mather's biggest opportunity to put his stamp on the organization, so we'll see.

It strikes me that what we're really talking about is organizational change. The individual that comes in needs to have not just the authority to make changes, but the ability to softly influence and not disrupt those parts of the organization that are working well.

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