Moneyball In Seattle in 2016
What works better for you, the global inefficiency or the local?


The first "market inefficiency" I remember was in the 1980s in Oakland, after Rickey got there.  First Bill James, then Sandy Alderson reading Bill James, and then the rest of us became aware that BB's were awesome.  For several years it seemed like a few sharp teams could purchase BB's for pennies on the dollar.

Market inefficiencies have since gone through several mail stops.  Stars, believe it or not, were undervalued for quite a while, which actually caused the explosion in silly contracts.  In the 1980s there were AstroTurf inefficiencies.  UZR you know about.  "Invisible bases" running 1B-to-3B were the rage one winter.  Contact hitting now is supposed to be something you can buy for less than 100% its on-field value; I kinda doubt that, but here we are.

Less obvious is any market inefficiency THAT WORKS IN FAVOR OF ONE PARTICULAR TEAM.  Originally in Colorado, they thought that fastball-changeup pitchers were that way.  Flyball hitters in Boston and Texas, of course.

Here is a good Brent Stecker article in which he quotes Jerry DiPoto on this:


"It was probably the predominant factor in our offseason, really," Dipoto said of building around Safeco's spacious dimensions. "If you understand what the ballpark allows you to do, and you build a team accordingly, you have a chance to create an advantage ... Here we have a great advantage in that we can build to a ballpark that allows us a model of success."

That model includes focusing on speed and defense in the outfield, which the Mariners have done with the additions of Nori Aoki and Leonys Martin, and relying on pitchers who give them opportunities to chase down fly balls.

"It's understanding that there's a lot of ground to cover out there so the outfielders needed to be a little rangier than they've been in the past. It's also understanding that the ballpark is particularly friendly to the pitcher," Dipoto said. "We don't have to be as discerning in the ground-ball vs. fly-ball pitcher. A fly-ball pitcher here at Safeco works perfectly well."


1.  It seems more triumphant if you are able to exploit an industry-wide gap.  Hey bro'!  We figured out something before anybody else did!  But a LOCAL inefficiency is permanent, and is unavailable to your rivals.  Saberdweebs kind of roll their eyes about a team built for its park.  In reality that may be 4th-order thinking ... sure, Earl Weaver (and John McGraw) knew about it, but ... true wisdom tends to have been around for a while.

2.  DiPoto casts the High-K, High-Flyball pitcher not as being a Seattle advantage per se, but as a lack of disadvantage.  Battery operated weed wackers are not inherently better than the ones with electrical cords.  But when the power goes out, suddenly the guy with a garage full of battery tools can still make his game work.


Evan Scribner gets a re-boot.  Let's start with the basics
Evan Scribner gets a re-boot. Let's start with the basics


If Safeco turns 3 home runs per homestand into fly ball outs, that's going to be a Win that changes hands.  A few Mariner pitchers and their K-Flyball rates:


SP/RP K's per 9 IP Groundball Rate
League Average 7.7 45%
Taijuan 8.3 38
Nate Karns 8.9 41
Vidal Nuno 7.5 42
Evan Scribner 9.6, with 0.02 walks 39


Wade Miley, as a left hand pitcher in Fenway, was an anti-Moneyball player, worth less to the Sox than to an average team.  Then there's a neutral park.  Then there's a left hand pitcher in Safeco.  ... DiPoto isn't saying that Karns is worthless to other teams.  He's saying that Karns might be the #22 starter in the AL for Texas, but the #11 starter for Seattle.  If you can pay such players as though they're the #22 for a few years, that's great.


Dr D



I also have a question for all the resident math majors here (which certainly does NOT include me):

Considering the concept of 'ranginess', is there a metric somewhere that lists the total square feet/yards of outfield in each park?  I know we can see dimensions to various walls, and there are ratings of 'park factors' overall...but wondering if there's an actual measurement the way we woud buy carpet.

(Side note: have the Astros followed through with purported plans to fence in Tal's Hill?)


Surprisingly, the Safeco outfield would be one of the cheapest outfields to carpet.  87.8k square feet is about 1.82 football fields' worth.  Only 3 outfields are significantly smaller, those in Boston, Philly and Cleveland.

Colorado's OF is a good 10% more spacious than Safeco's, and KC's is even bigger than that.  Who knew that Texas' outfield was 5-6% larger than ours.


Hence the reason outfielders all seem to do better than they should here - because the ball DOES hang up and it can't get through the marine layer for several months of the year.  The outfield isn't especially huge, it's just larger than can be overcome by most hitters in cool months thanks to the conditions.

Which means a home run hitter like Cruz who can defeat it in all months is important.  We can play the speed-and-defense game; I'm not opposed to that.  But Safeco suppresses things other than homers, too, so those defensive speedsters had better sting the ball when they make contact.

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