POWER hitters or GOOD hitters? part 4


=== #4 Don't Kid Yourself about Gloves ===

The stock of UZR is falling fast....

Hey.  If you could get banjo hitters for LF - RF - 1B - 3B who you could depend on to hit real good, despite no power, that would be one thing.

You haven't been talking about paying $15M for Johnny Damon.  You've been talking about spending $2M for Endy Chavez.

The argument isn't truly about power hitters.  The argument is about saving a buck, by putting a glove-first player in the corner.

From 2006-2010, the avant garde believed they had found the new Moneyball.  Get you those UZR players whose WAR was running ahead of their salary.

It was a neat theory, it was logical, it was seductive, but it was wrong.  UZR has since been found out and the dogma house of cards collapsed.  Oh well whatever nevermind.  

That particular "WAR," the good ole boyz won.  Huge.

We wouldn't be busting the saberdweebs' chops right now, except for the "weary professor" tone they took when they spoke of the Gillicks and Zdurienciks of the game.  If sabertistas are gonna dish it out, they also gotta eat it.


I've heard people argue that nine Mark Belangers (Jack Wilsons) could win a game against nine Ted Williamses (Edgar Martinezes).  That's how committed they were to the idea "a run saved is as good as a run earned."

As G-Money has shot back, "a theoretical run saved is not as good as an actual run scored."

You've got to consider the macro, 125-year trend.  Natural selection has proven that a Gold Glove does not help a team in the way that 40 homers do.


The Mariners tried this concept, UZR stars at the corners (Kotchman, Figgins, Saunders and Ichiro in 2010).  It got them an offense that was literally Deadball-Era quality:


=== 3B Next Y'ar ===

First of all, nobody's accusing Kyle Seager of having a plus glove at 3B.  He don't.  Seager isn't a glove man at third.  He doesn't bring the glove.

But when we say, "Seager's not ideal for 3B in 2012,"  what we really mean is this:  Because he doesn't have power, he's hoping to be a 100-OPS+ hitter.  And the 75 OPS+ scenario is also very feasible.  His lack of power puts tremendous pressure on his game, and he could easily wind up a very poor hitter.

Try Terry's idea of Mike Carp at third, as Earl Weaver mighta done if he hadn't had Brooksie, and guess what you've done?  You've put a real good hitter at third base.  And a lot of cool dominoes fall down for you, after you've got real good hitters in the corners.


Geoff Baker is naturally suspicious of Seager as the 3B solution.  He's right.  Possibly he is intuiting that (1) Seager is simply a mediocre-to-poor bat, for the position, and that (2) offense is not as negotiable in the corners as Seattle fans think it is.

I dunno whether Seager's the best option at 3B in 2012.  I do know that when Good Ole Boyz tell you to get some power at the corners, they know what they're talking about.

I'd put Seager at 3B, not because it will work long term, but just because Nick Franklin, Carlos Trinufel etc. aren't quite here yet.  

You know what?  Jack Zduriencik has hinted that in 2012, Nick Franklin may be the best solution, despite his learning curve.  Here's a guy who would be a real hitter at 3B, and if you have to invest a year, so be it....

Good Ole Boyz wanna stay away from the NL 1907 situation.  This is one area in which the Good Ole Boyz shine and we saberdweebs are lost at sea:  we're not familiar with the stoploss scenarios when you violate stoploss rules.  A lot of cut new ideas that we would try, would end up in 125 losses.


If you want to win anything, fill the corners with good hitters.  If you can find truly excellent hitters who do not hit homers, more power to you.  But I wouldn't hold my breath.



Dr D



Okay, maybe I missed the memo that equates power to hitting home runs and nothing but home runs.  But, *ANYONE* contending Seager has "no power" is not looking at the numbers.
Even if you want to ignore his monster double totals from his college day ...
Career minors slugging = .474 (1245 PA)
AAA slugging = .585 (117 PA)
AAA ISO = 198 (8-2B, 3-HR)
2011 xbh line = 40/3/9 (all levels)
Seager has hit 7 doubles in 116 PAs.  That is a 40 doubles pace *IN THE MAJORS*, as a rookie.  He was running a 7:10 eye ratio in the minors, which at the moment is 3:9.  He still has room to get better - (a lot of room).
But, already he is posting a 130 ISO in his first hundred PAs.  He's not running an 80 (like Saunders did), or a 60 (like Ichiro), or 60 (like Figgins) or 80 (like Ryan). 
Trayvon has a 150 ISO at the moment, (but a 1:6 eye). 
Seager has a resume that suggests, if he pans out, he could some day lead the majors in doubles without playing his home games in Fenway. 
All of that is BEFORE any potential mid-career power growth.  Seager shares some marked similarities to Ackley (and they had the same coaches in college), and Carp.  One could make the mistake of dismissing his 40 doubles at High Desert.  But, after a 160 ISO in 2009 and then in 2010 at HD, and a 140 ISO at Jackson, Seager improved at Tacoma and posted a 200 ISO in his first 100 PAs in AAA.
Like Carp, like Ackley, Seager is NOT a quick-twitch 'athlete' who is likely be as good as he'll ever be on day one and steadily get worse like Yuni or Lopez or Wlad or Saunders.  Seager is adaptable.  His template begins as a 40 double 10 HR guy with an upside of becoming the next Boone.
Me?  I'd write off Wells and Trayvon both before dismissing Seager with a hand wave. 
Okay, it's a small sample at AAA ... but honestly, what's the MLE for hitting 1000 in AAA at age 23?  (not that a MLE is really applicable to guys like Carp or Seager)
I mean, honestly ... has the obsession with spending money and acquiring veterans gotten so extreme that we're willing to dismiss 23-year-olds who hit 1000 in AAA because they haven't hit 40 HRs in the show?
I mean ... my brain is melting in my head wondering if people would be MORE excited about Seager if he had continued hitting 1000 in AAA (to get his PAs up to 200), instead of hitting .750 in his first 100 MLB PAs. 
But, what I really, really don't get.  Why is it that after trading away Bedard and Fister, isn't there a massive drumbeat to go out and buy or trade for SPs?
Team ERA+ is under 100 at this point, while team OPS+ is rising steadily.  Seager is currently hitting better than Smoak has in any of his MLB years.  A team OPS+ of 100 isn't going to make the playoffs if pitching drops to 90. 
The offense may not be in perfect shape for 2012.  But, my concern is that the arms may actually be further away from contending level than the offense at this point. 


Addressing your points:
1.  Dr. D is definitely not writing off the UP scenario for Seager.  I'd give him a good look, and if he's a plus hitter, would consider him at 3B.
1a.  He takes a pretty good rip at the ball.  He's not a Chone Figgins by any stretch.
2.  The "concern," from the Mariners first and foremost, is that Seager will hit 30+ doubles and 8 homers, full season, and that
3.  This will lead to the type of hitter mentioned in the article.  A guy slugging .425, not enough for 3B -- a 100 OPS+ that could easily slide to 80 or lower in an off year.
If Seager turns out to have plus gap power -- if he hits the .310/.380/.460 that he hit at Jackson -- then he can play for my ballclub any time.
Right now that looks dubious to me, but if as you say, he can lead the majors in doubles, then of course he's gonna make a lot of money ...

Taro's picture

 Historically, there has been little/no difference when 3B/2B transition over. Individually some guys will be better at one position over the other (Lopez at 3B and Ackley at 2B come to mind), but as a group skill-wise its a push.
Furthermore I'm not even sure if 3B is an offense first position.In 2011 3B in the MLB are hitting for a .700 OPS. Thats worse than any other position either than SS (.689). Worse than 2B, C, and CF.


You note, Taro, that 2011 is a down year for 3B offense.
Everybody on TV noted, in May, that 2011 is "the year of the pitcher."  Nobody could understand why there are no runs being scored any more.
I note that somewhere around 2007-08, UZR got a lot of traction as the Tom Tangos submitted their recommendations to MLB executives based on Endy Chavez, Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, "underrated defense" type decisions.  (Not that Tom specifically made those recommendations.)
I wonder if the UZR tide-swell produced a global effort to move 2B's and SS's to third  base, to move CF's to LF, etc, which left a bunch of Mike Carps and Matt Manginis in the minor leagues.
It looks to me like there's a rebound situation going on now, and I'd gingerly predict that offense in 2014 will be way up at 3B and LF.

Taro's picture

Usually slightly better than C/2B/SS/CF and worse than LF/RF/1B/DH.
It most years its a tweener position, but recently over the past few years its regressed to around where 2B are.
It was harder this year to find a quality hitting 3B hitter in the AL than a 2B in roto.

Taro's picture

Ya, really in the past 2-3 years. Usually 3B is in between the glove positions and bat positions in production and I'd guess that it rebounds in the next few years.
The difference between 2B and 3B is a bit overrated though. You want balance. If a bat-first type can be competent defensively at 3B you can stick him there, but I don't see the need to risk it since we haven't seen what Seager can offer yet.
A mid-high 700s OPS would make Seager one of the better offensive 3Bs in baseball, especially considering Safeco.


Taking a quick look at 1995 -- first retro year I looked at -- here are the 3B's sorted by wRC+.
14/18 of them have indexes over 100 (Thome, Bonilla, Chipper, Ventura, Boggs, etc), and there are seven stars over 120.
17/18 are 90's or better!  The 18th was Todd Zeile, a lifetime 250-homer man having a down year.
Here are the 2B's that year, sorted by wRC+.  Less than 50% hit 100 on the index, there are only two good hitters (Knoblauch and Biggio), and there are many terrible hitters who started for their teams (Lemke, Lansing, Rey Sanchez, Brent Gates, Jody Reed, etc.).
I could be wrong, absolutely could be wrong, but that's the kind of 3B and 2B population I grew up with, that 1995 set.


The difference between 3B and 2B is not to be overstated ...
And putting Kyle Seager at 3B is no way, no how the same thing as putting Casey Kotchman at 1B...

Taro's picture

Ya, in any given era theres fluctuation. A decade ago SS was a pretty strong offensive position.
My guess is that we're currently in a weak era of 3Bs, but that should change in a few years. Its a tweener position most years. James placed 3B in between the the glove and bat positions and I think thats about right.

Taro's picture

It is definetly not. Despite Kotchman doing his Vidro season this year, I was never a fan of that move.
I'm a believer in overall production. Offense is largest chunk, defense the 2nd largest, and then baserunning/etc. The D doesn't make up for a lack of offense (and baserunning) at a low level defensive postion.


Maybe then the idea of Ackley in CF is more valuable than it seems at first blush. We put Seager at 2B and trade for a beast 3B. Sure Ackley's bat is first rate at 2B but it would be so in CF as well. That would free up a lot of trade chips for a 3B and a C.
It seems a shame to have to dump Seager, potentially a cheap solid bat because we *have* to force Ackley into the 2B position for some reason.


Supposing the Martians came down and gave you an ultimatum.  Within 5 years, you had to field an internally-grown player -- not on your current 40-man roster -- who finished a full season with 550 PA's, rating 1% better than average both on offense and on defense.
At stake, the planet, of course.
Would you rather have to fill CF, or 2B?


Dave Cash played 2B, Richie Hebner played 3B.
Ted Sizemore played 2B, Joe Torre played 3B.
Glenn Beckert played 2B, Ron Santo played 3B.
I grew up in that world, too, Doc.
Thusly, I've been saying for quite a while that it wouldn't surprise me if Nick Franklin played 3B for the M's next year, beginning sometime in June.
Check out League Championship teams.  They almost all have 5 guys with at least 40 extra-base hits.  You can win with one bonker if you have 5 more guys with 35 doubles and 10 homers. If Seager is a 40 double guy, he's enough of a power guy to hold his own at 3B.
In '75 George Brett had 35-13-11 xb hits.  WAY good enough (.308 average).  In '76 he had 34-14-7.  WAY good enough (he only hit .333).
Give Seager 600 PA's and he may well be a 35-0-10 guy.  That is good enough to play 3B.
Franklin may be better, however.
IF, next year, you have the 3rd-5th spots in the lineup producing like Ackley-Carp-Smoak have indicated they will, then a .288-.339-.413 Seager (his #'s going into tonight), with 35 doubles is a very nice addition.
Chipper Jones (or C. Jones-lite/Nick Franklin?) would be nicer, of course, as would M. Schmidt.  But if the big three produce and Ichiro bounces AND you get 120OPS from Wells or Trayvon (or Peguero or Saunders or Guti or Willy Mo) the Seager a 113 OPS+ Seager is worthy of a man crush.
If...of course.  But you get my drift.
Minus a rebounding Ichiro and a productive Casper/Trayvon/etc then Seager better muscle up.
Sandoval hit 13 homers for the Giants last year.  He had 50 xbase hits, however.  WAY good enough.

tjm's picture

Sandy's reasons for supporting Seager at 3B are the same reasons I'd love him at 2B. I never suggesed we flush him. I think he's going to hit. If he's an advantage at 3B, he's a stud at 2B. But Baker's and Doc's point about power is right on. We need as many sticks as we can get. Ackley in CF and Carp at 3B help address that, leaving LF (and reduntantly DH) as pure hitter positions.


Look around the minors.  Some of the best 3B prospects coming in to this season were:
- Bret Lawrie.  Was good and developing until this year...and then demolished Las Vegas with an unholy vengeance.  Yes, it's a launching pad...but wow. 21 years old. Minor League OPS: .850.  Continuing the show for Toronto.
- Mike Moustakas.  Hit for huge power last year, good power every other year, acceptable average. Career minor league OPS: .840. 22 years old. One of the best-liked offensive 3B prospects.  Atrocious in his first couple hundred big league at-bats, but it's early.
- Lonnie Chisenhall. Okay at everything, great at nothing.  Minor league OPS: .795.  2 years old.  Still one of the best 3B prospects, with a comparable swing to Seager.
- Matt Dominguez.  Bigger SS moved over to 3B, low average, decent-to-good power, Ks aren't too high.  People keep expecting his power to climb, but if he keeps hitting .250 in the minors, who cares? Career OPS: .745
- Nolan Arenado.  Still in the low minors, just 20, doing well.  Career OPS: .830, but half of that is in the Cal League.
- Josh Vitters.  Beloved for conquering the low-low minors as a teen, has struggled more in AA.  Have I mentioned he sucks at defense and might not stick at 3rd?  21 years old.  Career OPS: .760
There's also Todd Frazier (the two-years-older, plateaued version of Seager), Nick Castellanos (19, in A-Ball, still a baby...) and others, but none significantly different than this cast of characters.
And now:
- Kyle Seager.  Viewed as a 2B prospect because of his lack of HR power, and because that's what he played his junior year, but was a 3B before that. Doubles machine.  23 years old.  Good park fit for the Mariners.  Minor League OPS: .875 (half of that produced in a hitter's haven).  Holding his own in the majors so far.
So tell me:  of all the other players on this list, who would you trade Seager for?  I'd want Lawrie for sure, and Moustakas has a higher upside (but isn't ready with his approach yet).  That's it.  I don't like Chisenhall any more than Seager, I like Dominguez and Vitters less, and Arenado is years away. 
There's a drought out there when it comes to good young third basemen. Thumping 3B are still very rare, and even just good hitters are hard to find.  Why do you think I was so hacked off about Rendon?  His skill-set is practically non-existent at the position right now in the minors.  Good glove AND good stick there?  It's like finding a two-horned unicorn.  We just traded for a 3B whose minor league OPS after 1200+ at-bats is UNDER .700 and people are very impressed by his potential.  Heck, Carlos Triunfel is one of the better 3B prospects in the game, and he's not any good.
To fix our immediate problem at the hot corner, there are only a few options::
1) go with Seager, who's as good as almost any 3B prospect out there, has shown a couple of promising skills including crazy doubles potential, and can handle it defensively.  If he doesn't work out, Miller and Franklin should be showing us if they will by that time.
2) trade for a better player, knowing it will be expensive.  If you want to try to get your hands on a Zimmerman or a Wright then get ready to leave a suitcase full of unmarked bills and several quality prospects on a street corner and wait for further instructions.
3) use a better hitter at the more challenging defensive position and let the poorer glove be made up for by the better stick.  This is the move-Carp, leave-Catricala-there option.
Right now, option 1 sounds fine to me, as long as we get significant thump elsewhere.  But as long as we stay away from option 4 (give Figgins several hundred more ABs to figure it out, then patch with a mid-30s vet when that doesn't work out), I'm good.  Any of those options COULD work.  It's all about implementation...and finding the right player(s) for the problem.

RockiesJeff's picture

Great thoughts everyone. And as many said, don't think trading for someone will come with the right package. Here the Rockies are a good example. They have wasted a lot of time and resouces trying to stretch a marginal player and then appearing to throw mud against the wall. Stewart was the 2nd coming of Helton but without any consistency. Enter Wigginton now this year. And now Kouzmanoff. Look at their this year. Big part right there. I watch Reyolds south of us in AZ either hit it out or whiff at everything. Orioles try to fill a hole and he is hitting .225. Good points about Seager and Franklin. Everyone wants the easy fill but not so always simple.


While it's poor form to go there, I'm going there anyway.  Is 3B supposed to be more of a thumper position than RF?  I don't think so.
Now ... I completely get the concept that if you have already punted RF for a good glove, no power option, then your need for HRs from 3B are higher.  But, from my perspective, that is the problem from the LAST 5 years ... not the next 5.
And this is another case where ORDER MATTERS.  It did not hurt the offense one iota to have a slap-hitting singles hitter in RF in 2000 and 2001.  Why?  Because the club ALREADY had 20 HR guys at 1B, 2B, DH and (wait for it), CF.
The 2000 club got the following HR counts at the corner positions:  1B = 24; 3B = 16; LF = 10; RF = 10;
Up-the-middle, they got:
2B = 37; SS = 5; CF = 25; CA = 14;
That's a 79 to 60 edge for power up-the-middle versus at the corners. 
BECAUSE the CF was a 25-HR 200 ISO guy, the club could afford to have a good glove, no power option in RF.
The problem has NOT been lack of HRs at 3B.  The problem has been lack of HRs/Power at first and second and third and short and catcher and RF and LF and CF and DH. 
But, what do I see if I run the 2011 ISO figures for a potential 2012 lineup?
CA - Olivo - 150
1B - Smoak - 160
2B - Ackley - 160
SS - Ryan -- 70
3B - Seager - 120
LF - Trayvon - 150
CF - Guti - 50 (140 before illness)
RF - Ichiro - 60
DH - Carp - 200
I see three problem positions, CF, RF and SS.  Of course, SS is typically power weak.  And, Franklin is on the way, and everyone gets that Ryan is a stopgap.
The huge question mark and power disaster positions are currently - RF and CF.  While having a low power CF is acceptable, having a 50 ISO and center and RF is NOT. 
But, Ichiro is in his final season and likely to see his PT start shrinking if he doesn't have a better 2012 than 2011.  But, CF is a different story.  Casper Wells has some power, (in the event Guti doesn't regain his power after an off-season of rest and conditioning). 
At the moment, Seager is more of a 'sure thing' for power production in 2012 than CF or RF. 

paracorto's picture

"We just traded for a 3B whose minor league OPS after 1200+ at-bats is UNDER .700 and people are very impressed by his potential"
M's experts are very easy to fall in love with newcomers, whoever they are
"So tell me:  of all the other players on this list, who would you trade Seager for?"
There's no need to make any trade, just put Mo Pena there. Even if he's not a gold glove his giant body frame will be able to stop any linedrive

Taro's picture

I'm with you Sandy, although I wouldn't blame Ichiro for the past 5 years. The Ms have been atrocious at DH/1B/LF for years now while Ichiro was churning out 5.5 WAR seasons at RF.
Ichiro now is a problem though.. sad to say. I hope he rebounds a bit next year (he should) and retires the next year (or takes a significant pay cut).

Taro's picture

Thats a good way of putting it. We seem to just be in a poor era for 3B.
Personally I'm with Sandy in being a lot higher on Seager than either Trayvon or Wells. Seager has the type of skillset that leads to getting underrated. Hes good in several areas and not great in any.
I'd like to see his contact rate rise (he'll need that long-term), but overall hes transitioned well.
Personally am more concerned about the OF. Too many 'specs there with high bust%s.

Rick's picture

If Guti didn't look like our CF of the future, would be have moved Ackley there instead of 2nd?  If we'd done that, who'd a thunk we'd be getting our 2nd baseman out of the same team in that draft?  Ironic.
But... man 3rd base with Vinnie the Cat or Mikey the Carp?  I'm not sure I'm ready for another Russ Davis playing 3rd. 
Hargrove solved this problem by moving Ichiro to CF, and bringing in Jose Guillen.  Ibanez, Ichiro, Guillen...now THAT was a major league hitting OF.  No wonder we won games that season.
Carp sounds like a 60's throwback, but then, our era also saw Tommy Harper (as well as Pete Rose) move from 2nd to 3rd.  Good hitters.  Tommy transformed himself from a speedster (73 SBs with 95 walks as a 2nd baseman in '69) to a power hitter (31 HRs as a 3rd baseman in '70) with the move.  Now THERE'S a guy who knew how to play a role.  Harper wasn't a good 2nd baseman, but you had to make room for Rich Rollins and Tommy Davis.  But I sure don't suggest we move Ackley there.  He needs to be given a position and stay there, and it ain't 3rd. 
BTW, if there were any ballplayer I would like to meet someday, it's Tommy Harper.  I'd just like to tell him how neat it was having him as our star player on that Pilot team.  He may have been the best athlete on the ballfield in 69-70.
So, what's my point?  Or am I simply waxing nostalgic?  Yeah, I'm waxing nostalgic.  But I see the problem, and believe Jack and Co. will find a way to fix it.  We'll either get a monster DH or a 3rd baseman in the offseason.  Or we'll see Carp at 3rd somewhere in Venezuela this winter.  Who knows? 


I'm higher on Seager than Wells or Trayvon, too, certainly for his floor.  He'll be in the league for a decade as a non-SS Bloomquist who can take a walk, minimum.
But if he doesn't work out as a full-time starter at 3B we have Catricala, Liddi, Martinez, Triunfel, the just-drafted Proscia, and potentially either Brad Miller or Nick Franklin should either man sieze the SS role.
How many more 3B prospects would you like to see in one org?  Catricala's glove is bad, but he's obliterated A+ and AA this year.  Everything you'd want to see from an offensive standpoint has been shown, it's just a matter of seeing it again in AAA and deciding where you want to play the 3B/1B/LF.
Liddi has been at AAA all year at 22, has  improved his D (to the point that he's not embarrassing himself at SHORTSTOP in 2 dozen games this year), and is thiiis close to a 30 2B/ 30 HR season for the Rainiers.  I don't see how he's any worse than Matt Dominguez as a prospect, despite his ridiculous # of strikeouts still.
Triunfel has been acceptable, Proscia in brief action is hitting well even if he hates walks, Martinez is...toolsy, Nick Franklin has had a rough year but not at the plate...
And as a 3B I still like Seager as much as any of em long-term.  If Howie Kendrick had to play 3B for me would that make me unhappy?  Not if Chase Utley was playing 2nd, no way.  And prime Howie Kendrick might surprise, after all...
In a vacuum, I don't want to have to find a power-hitting 2B like Boone's roiding years to compensate for a lack of HR power at a corner position.  But this isn't a vacuum - we already HAVE found a great offensive 2B, we don't have to locate one.  If no power-hitting 3B can be found, I'd rather add the thump at 1B, DH, LF and RF anyway.  Hopefully Carp and Smoak can take care of two of those spots, leaving us two to fill.
If filling one of those spots requires moving Carp to 3rd...well that's an interesting solution.  I think it far more likely if Smoak is at 1B and we get a FA DH that Carp goes to the OF.
That solution wouldn't anger me in the slightest because again, Trayvon and Wells, especially on corners, make me nervous. I think either in CF is a better solution - one has the better arm, the other the better wheels, but that would require Gutierrez departing.  We'll see if that happens.
Replacing Seager is a few steps down my list of current needs, especially with the guys currently in the system who might be taking their own shot in a year or two at the hot corner.
Unless it's to add an absolute stud - then I'm absolutely game. 

ghost's picture

The Hall of Fame list for third basemen is suspiciously missing monster power hitters.  You have to start including the Killebrews and Molitors and Edgars of the world for the list to look remotely respectable offensively.
It's my impression that although the average third baseman has slightly outhit the average catcher or center fielder historically...it has traditionally not come with truly outstanding hitters there.  Mostly guys like Robin Ventura and Sal Bando and Bobby Bonilla...guys who hit .260 with 20 homers most of the time.  You traditionally have not been able to expect to land a big beefy slugger there.


And Ichiro is as freakish as anybody who has ever played this game :- )
Jamie Moyer defied all logic for 5+ years after he had any right to play ... considering that Ichiro adds a good +10 runs in RF compared to plodding 30-homer men, I won't be surprised if he's +20 runs with the bat and legs, +10 defensively, for +3 wins until he's like 45...
Also wouldn't be surprised if it went the other way.  
James always says, in these situations, you can't predict the outliers.  "Common sense tells us to let him find his own limits," he said about Nolan Ryan age 40.

Taro's picture

I'd love to see Ichiro continue to be an above-average player for the next 8 years. I'm rooting for him to break all kinds of records.. This season has been painful to watch.
Hopefully if he does stay though, the organization is willing to open a seperate wallet for him.


Jemanji, you draw many conclusions in your discussion of the importance of power hitting at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF.  I also realize that you acknowledge nuance in your essay, but your main conclusion appears to be that modern statistical analysis has lost sight of the value of offense first positions in general, and  homeruns at offense first positions in specific.  Among the many arguments you utilize to support the position is the historical emphasis on big, slow third basemen that could hit the ball a country mile.
This archetype for 3B, however, did not exist until the 1950's (with the exception of Frank 'Home-Run' Baker, which still leaves a 40 year gap before the arrival of the second.).  Why?  Well, in the teens defending the bunt was an essential part of defense, so maybe 3B was a defensive position in the early history of baseball and the sport was slow to evolve to the impact of HR hitting.  Nonetheless, if you peruse The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the list of 50 best 3B is dominated by post world war II players, and almost all of the pre-1950's players were singles hitters.  Of Frank Baker, Stan Hack, Pie Traynor, Jimmy Collins, Heinie Groh, John McGraw, Larry Gardner, George Kell, Harlond Clift, Buddy Lewis, Freddie Lindstronm, Red Rolfe, Ed Williamson, Bill Bradley,  and Billy Nash, only Frank Baker and Harlond Clift had power hitting as a key strength.
Another argument you seem to be making is that stastically minded fans have over-valued defense, particularly at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF.  My first comment, is that someone at fangraphs would never look at Pie Traynor's batting average and defensive reputation and argue how he is better than Mike Schmidt.  I agree that I can glance through the comments at fangraphs or any number of other sites and find many unsophisticated comments arguing that the supposed 50 runs saved in LF by Carlos Gomez over Manny Ramirez makes them players of equal value, but why waste your rhetorical skill on such lightweights?
I claim the sophisticated statistical point is that all sources of value matter, hitting, fielding, and base running, and they all matter at 1B and SS.  That UZR or any other tool used to attribute defensive value has issues doesn't change the fact that you can design a team to win 3-2 or 9-8.  On many occasions you have appeared to scoff at the notion that a run saved is as valuable as a run earned.  I must admit that I don't understand this argument at all.  Is it tongue in cheek?
As you acknowledge, the goal is good hitters and I fully agree that hitting 25 homeruns gets you a long way to being a good hitter.  But so does 90 walks.  In the end, it is so hard to acquire the talent needed to win a World Series, why narrow your options by being pre-occupied with traditional archetypes?  Afterall, pre-occupation with the traditional power hitting 3B archetype is what kept Jim Presley's 25 home runs and 0.290 OBP in Seattle and Edgar Martinez's 0.440 OBP stationed in the wilds of Canada for 2 year too long.
One last comment.  I think you have argued in the past that the current M's front office over-values defense.  I would like to make the counter point that almost all of the cases where defense was valued over offense (Endy Chavez, Casey Kotchman, Jack Wilson, Brendan Ryan, so on) have involved patches to the major league roster.  I think these have all been patches done on the cheap, designed to make the M's watchable, while they waited for the disaster contracts to come off the books.  Simultaneously, the front office used what little resource flexibility they had to increase their investiment in the minor leagues.  Consequently, you should look to the minor leaguers to get a sense of Jack's baseball philosophy, not the dumpster diving moves designed to get a watchable product on the field while cutting payroll.  I say, if you want to understand what matters to Jack, look at the draft picks.  There are many bat first selections (Ryan Franklin, Marcus Littlewood, Brad Miller, Rich Poythress, Kyle Seager, Kevin Cron, and so on).  But if I wanted to select a single move as a demonstration of Jack's baseball philosophy, it would be the decision to move Dustin Ackley to 2B.  If you were pre-occupied with pretty defense, why would you delay the arrival of your best hitting talent and endanger the esthestic appeal of the keystone defense?  Jack wants hitters, but the only way to get them on the cheap is to cultivate them from the seed.
In the end, I doubt we actually disagree all that much, but I think your flair for rhetoric has hidden the key issue for me -- the M's are bad because they lack good players not because they lack the right kind of good players.  Good players can fit the 1B, 3B, LF, and RF archetypes (Eddie Murray, Mike Schmidt, Jim Rice, Tony Armas) or break it (Keith Hernandez, Wade Boggs, Tim Raines, Tony Gwynn) -- just get the best players you can.


Great post Dr. K!
Will respond to that heavyweight post ... and agree in theory with 95% of it ...
Before my response, though, a suggestion.... check out FanGraphs - go to 2010 AL Leaders, Batting ... sort by wRC+ ... look at all qualified hitters over 100 ...
And then scan the SLG and HR columns for those hitters above (say) 105.  Check the names of the 5 or so exceptions.
Agree with you:  I don't care how Seager gets his 5.0 runs per 27, and there is certainly a Damon/Gardner route to his 110 OPS+ ...
But after Chone Figgins, I guess I'm tired of watching Mariner batters try to defy gravity and, without power, OBP .390 to justify their spots in the lineup ... :- )
Watching an AL hitter try to OPS+ 115, without any doubles or homers, is like watching a pitcher try to win with an 86 fastball.  It can be done .... but Anthony Vasquez ain't in my top five to start ST...
If Seager can hit .290 with 45 doubles and 75 walks then of course he's going to be a rich man.


I don't know if you've noticed recently, but Catricala is doing amazing things in AA, and I'm having trouble attributing them to luck since he did amazing things in High A, and amazing things in Low A.
Vinnie was 4th in the MWL last year in OPS (qualified).  Now, some great hitters left that league half-way through the season, so maybe it doesn't mean as much as it otherwise would, but taking a pitcher's league apart with 41 doubles and 17 HRs as a RH bat does mean something.  But no worries, he'd never keep it up.  After all, Churchill declared him "not a prospect" in May of this year based on the opinion of scouts who should know, right?
He's got 48 doubles and 25 HRs this year in A+ and AA combined.  Yes, his BABIP is very high - but he's CRUSHING EVERYTHING and has been for 2 years.  At some point, that makes him a good hitter, right?   If he qualified he'd be leading the Southern League in batting average and OPS, is 8th in doubles there while having 200 fewer at bats than anyone ahead of him (300 in some cases)...
He's been amazing.  Again.  He's split his time evenly between 3B and LF, though he can play a pretty good 1B too.
If he does anything like this again in AAA...we're gonna have to find a place for him.  Seager and Catricala BOTH being 45-doubles guys, with Catricala adding 10 more HRs over Seager...that could be very, very welcome.
Then top it off with Nick Franklin and see what happens.
There are times when I see why the Ms might just wait for the kids to finish developing so that they can get doubles galore and plus power out of several glove positions to boot.

paracorto's picture

He's legendary for his sentences without appeal. But in this case an appeal should have been accepted since in the final season rankings Catricala is now 4th right behind Paxton, Hultzen and Walker and just in front of Franklin.


... though as usual, you had to go to the comments area to read it :- )
"Not on the radar - could surprise" is one thing, an active "no prospect - can't succeed" grade is another.
To go from that, to #1 position player in the org, in a few months, that's not something you want to have happening, if your gig is player grades ...
Catricala has not revamp'ed his game, has not developed revolutionary handspeed this summer, etc ... G-Money, Spec etc. simply understood his game when others didn't.  (Me personally, it wasn't until about this May-June that I saw the vids and all.)  
No bad on those who didn't "see" Catricala, but I'd like to see a lot more credit given to the "amateurs" in the M's blog-o-sphere.  I'll take G-Money's grade of a Mariner farmhand before I'll take Jim Callis' or John Sickels'.  Also love to get Spec's grades, Lonnie's, and others'.
Catricala's specialness is in the same category as Casper Wells':  he takes a very compact route to the ball, and yet hits with the authority as though he had a much longer swing.
The results are obviously beginning to convince some scouts. 


To be fair to Jason, he didn't look at Vinnie and say, "not a prospect."  OTHERS looked at him, and told him he wasn't a prospect, and Jason, being a very busy man, took them at their word.
Catricala is not a player I have seen much of, but word is he's not a prospect so I have never paid attention much. He's a good minor league player and hits a lot of fly balls with a big swing, which explains some of his success, and failures, in the Cal League.

Once the "hot streak" continued in AA he took a closer look for himself, and you can see how he feels about Vinnie with his new ranking.  One of the problems with believing professional scouts just because they're professionals.
Much as Conor Dowley has.  He ranked Vinnie as having one average skill (power) and a bunch of below average ones (the guy who has never hit lower than .300 in the minors and significantly higher than that at half his stops has a low hit tool because his bat doesn't stay in the zone forever like Seager's does).  When someone gets incredulous, he responds:
Forgive me if I trust the four scouts I talked to who’ve seen him at least 15 times between them just this year more. In fact, I might have been a little kind compared to their reports.

So apparently he's being generous when he says Vinnie's a classic org guy at age 22, "a good guy to keep around who can give your minor league squads some extra “oomph”, but not a serious prospect."  And uses comps like Brian LaHair (who couldn't hit oppo pitching to save his life even after thousands of minor league ABs), Johan Limonta (lazy player who never improved) and Luis Jimenez (really?  What's with the fat, slow 1B comparisons?).
Catricala is not the fastest guy in the world, but he's not a plodder.  His glove is minus at 3B right now but plus at 1B, and the OF would be fine for him.  He has positional options that mountains with hands like LaHair don't have.
He's right, Vinnie's bat is not the fastest but he squares up more than his share of pitches and drives them a long way. I think the Safe will hurt him, but that doesn't make him an org player - that makes him a potential stud for someone else, or a good player for us.
Vinnie's front half is like still water.  He moves his front foot like an inch, drops his shoulder and drives the ball with that compact swing using torque and the rest of the muscles on his opposite side to lift the ball instead of wrist hinge or pure batspeed.  It's definitely a workable power solution as long as he can identify pitches early - and so far he's shown he can.  I can't understand looking at him and thinking he's not a prospect.  He was driving balls out of MWL parks by 50 feet - that's not Cal League fly ball luck, that's power.  Power he duplicated in the Southern League. 
It's like there's only one way to succeed in the bigs according to some scouts.  One way to swing, one thing to do, or you're "not a prospect."  Man, somebody better tell Cal Ripken and Joe Morgan, who changed their stances and movements around their swings a dozen times during their careers.
Vinnie is not the second coming of A-Rod or anything, but he's gonna be a ML ballplayer.  So's Seager.  Whether you want them on your team is another matter, but Vinnie was not coincidentally a top-5 hitter in three full-season leagues before the age of 23. You may not like the KIND of prospect he is (tweener 3B/1B/OF who pays attention on the basepaths, decent eye, K and walk rates, good-contact flyball hitter who reads pitches early to compensate for slower bat, with tons of doubles, 15-20+ HRs and a high BABIP) but that doesn't make him "not a prospect."  It makes him not YOUR kind of prospect.
Which is fine...but then advocate trading him, not discounting him.  
Scouts have reversed themselves now, btw, and are touting Catricala as if they'd always been fans.  It leaves the guys who relied on their reports twisting in the wind a bit, but such is life.
Vinnie can still fail, and give doubters and discounters the final victory - but all prospects can fail.  That doesn't make them "not a prospect."  It makes them ballplayers.
He has a Nick Markakis skillset from the right side of the plate.  In what universe would we not want that in a prospect?  With our OF depth I could see us using Vinnie as a trade chip - we need a catcher more - but I think we'll just let him simmer in AAA until we get the Ichiro thing figured out and see where Guti's at.  Vinnie's played half his games in the OF in AA, at about Mike-Carp level.
If Wells doesn't work out as a starter and Trayvon is in CF, don't be surprised if Vinnie the Cat is our next serious attempt to plug that hole.
As more than just an org guy. 

benihana's picture

I think it's also helpful to remember that in scout speak "not a prospect" means low % chance to be a star in the major leagues.   
Just like "upside = #2" for Campos means that the scouts don't see him as a future HOF'er. 
There are probably 50 "prospects" in all of baseball by those terms. 
If Vinnie the Cat makes an impact at the major league level it will be a surprise, that's all the scouts were saying.
- Ben.


Y'know, this whole thread reminds me of some of the discourse from the '90s (before Moneyball), when a select few were 'getting' Bill James, while most of the baseball world seemed to still be stuck in 1955. 
All in all, it boils down to the question nobody has a good handle on ... when does scouting trump production and vice versa.  What too many SABR guys today miss is that scouting is a valuable resource ... just like statistical analysis.  They're two different tools ... both with flaws and limitations ... and the winner is going to be the people that most optimally combine the two.
.856 OPS at 20 in rookie ball.
.874 OPS at 21 in A ball.
1025 OPS at 22 in A+/AA.
VC is a statistical monster.  I mean, he hit better (for more power) at Jackson than he did at High Desert!?!  When you manage 77 XBH in a season, it doesn't much matter what kind of XBH they were.  Nick Franklin had 52 in 2010 which made him an instant minors superstar. 
Of course, if the scouts, who are watching VC smack the ball around on a daily basis are in unison suggesting that his game has a "ceiling" that will prevent him from making it in the majors, it's at least worth listening to.  Because there are many hitters who have 'tools' and lousy production early, but eventually get enough coaching to close some of those holes in their swing and become more productive later on. 
What scouts "should" be useful for is identifying low-production talent early capable of blossoming later ... as well as high productive, (but low ceiling) talent that is destined to crash and burn some day.  But, with the human element, no system is ever going to be perfect.
Where both scouts and SABEs fail is they cannot see into the heads of players.  Carp is not out-hitting Smoak because he's better physically.  It's the mental aspect of the game that Carp is way out in front of Smoak, (so far). 
The question of whether VC can handle the majors can and will only be answered if some day he gets a shot ... and one long enough to make a fair judgement.  Remember, it is common for even star players to 'seem' overmatched in their first month in the majors.  And other players shine bright for a month or two then crash badly. 
In the end, VC is exactly the kind of 'problem' most organizations would love to have to deal with.


Vinny is right in the middle of the "McNamara" blue print for college draftee hitters, isn't he? He doesn't have any single "++" tool but aside from possibly defense, he doesn't seem to have any "-" tools either. But he did hit well in college. How many guys like this has McNamara drafted in the last three years that are surprising people? Is anyone going to be shocked if Brad Miller is the next guy that flies under the prospect ranking radar until he's all of a sudden hitting .340 for the second full season and knocking on the door?
You have to have a lot of confidence in your minor league player development group to focus on college draftees like this but it sure seems to be working.

Lonnie of MC's picture

...on the 3b situation, I put up a piece last night that looks at median offensive production and what everyone should be looking at w/r/t acceptability (IMHO).
Also, I've been on the Vinnie the Cat bandwagon for... well, just about since the day we drafted him.  Last off-season I got villified at a couple of websites for mentioning Catricala and Tenbrink as players with future MLB potential.  Had Nate not gotten screwed around with by coaches and then injury this year I think that he would be smack dab in the middle of this discussion also.

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