Sabermetrics: Do the Mariners Farm SP's?
a single 5-WAR rookie can go a long way


Bill James has another excellent article up, the kind we used to buy Abstracts to read.  It's $3 per month to get thirty dollars per month worth of material.  We'll Exec Sum the first portion of the article and its Mariner relevance.

First:  a question.  As it stands right now, Sept. 9, 2016, have the Mariners been good, bad or average at developing the rotation?  The answer is "good"; they're 9th of 30 teams at it.

Second:  Here's how the conversation went...


Q.  Hey Bill.  Why can't the Red Sox develop starting pitchers?

A.  Let's ask, as the entry level question, whether it is correct to say the Sox have doon a poor job of developing starting pitching.

The method I'll use is ... I'll rank the 150 best starters in baseball, 150 points for Kershaw, 149 for Scherzer, ... , 2 for Blake Snell and 1 for Dylan Bundy.   Hmmm... another question comes up.  Which org gets credit for Trevor Bauer:  AZ or CLE?  More pitchers are like Bauer, having grown up in various systems, than are like Felix Hernandez.

OK, the best practical rule is --- > he belongs to the team he first pitched in the majors with.  Asterisk!  There are exceptions; if a guy is traded after 7 years in the minors and then gets traded and called up in two weeks, that doesn't count.

The results:  Tampa Bay has produced the most talent -- 8 SP's in the current top 150, for 753 points.  The Mets do indeed come in #2.  Would you have thought the Angels were #5 in baseball?

The worst at developing SP's:  SD, Pitt and SF.

Yes, the Sox are bottom third.


Q.  Hey Bill.  Does it MATTER whether a team can develop starters?  (Dr. D's phrasing.)

A.  Not really very much.  Producing a good young pitcher has a certain short-term benefit.  But it usually gets swallowed up in other moving parts.  The Rays and Angels being top-5 is not going to produce a World Series for them this year.

A reader might accuse the Red Sox of not producing Stephen Strasburg and Zack Greinke, but they HAVE starters better than that.  David Price ranks ahead of Greinke, and Rick Porcello ranks ahead of Strasburg.

"Who produced who is kind of a [baloney] question, because almost everybody, over time, winds up somewhere else anyway."


Jerry DiPoto has gone through 32 pitchers this year; the question turned out not to be, "Did the Mariners do good with Taijuan Walker?", but, "Can you get five guys throwing good, however you get them there?"  The Mariners couldn't.  Personally I can't think of much they did wrong.  Maybe sometimes it just takes a little longer than five months; DiPoto's old org is looking pretty good on this scale.


Dr D




I've always felt that at some point ALL players become (edit:  potential) chits to bring in different players, hopefully better ones.

Getting that process right is, of course, the hard part.

Is trading two teenage arms for Ben Gamel a developmental winner or loser?  it will take a while to know.

That said, do the Dodgers get bonus points for being able to really develop catchers well, just because they hit the million-to-one shot in Piazza?  Did the M's "develop" Griffey Jr. well?   Did we "develop" Felix?   "Developing" talent is far less important (IMHO) than it correctily appraising potential talent.  Hey, maybe we missed  the "refuses to learn" part that goes with Taijuan Walker's thunderous arm.  If so, then that was more of an evaluation problem and less of a developmental one.

Since I just wrapped up a Psychology class talking about the psychologist Jean Piaget, I'm fairly sure that he might point out that Walker would make that cognitive leap when he was ready to make it,  We can't accelerate that "developmental" process to any great degree.

Since players are commodities and are traded about, the bigger issue is whether teams can correctly identify which guy the other team has is more valuable to you than the guy you have.  And we're not talking the Troutsoooor the Canos.  Those are easy calls.  Teams that get most of the Gamel or teenage arms question right are the ones that are most successful.

Drafting Ackley or Deej instead of somebody else is always a roll of the dice.  See Piazza.  But correctly evaluating what Deej can bring to you, in terms of on-field #'s or trading returns,  is what "developing" talent is really about.

Would it really make any difference which organization "developed" Jose Lopez? 

How do you develop tough fingernails for Paxton?  An "I want to learn" attitude for Walker (if he doesn't have it already....I am not convinced he doesn't)?  Very few young players are of the franchise type.  The question isn't whether we develop Tank O'Neill, but whether his value for us is more in trade.  I loved the discussion about Odor last night.  He walks a handful of times a season, 15 in '16.  23 times last year.  But the Rangers aren't worried at all about "developing" his eye, figuring it will come in the course of things and they are better off not mucking with the talents he already brings to the plate.

Piaget would agree.  Ditto, Moe. 



Is a difficult thing to judge because there's never a control group to run numbers against.   Pass/ fail doesn't catch details, not that we're privy to enough of them to truly judge either.  Who gets credit for developing guys that move on before they're done developing is hard enough to judge in many individual cases.  While Saunders seems easy, Miller does not. 

I caught that conversation on Odor lastnight and thought the same.  Was it a problem for Ichiro?  If it ain't broke...I think Odor could improve in that aspect but how important is it really? 

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