The MOTO Down 46% ?
I'll take that bet, Dept.


Diderot pointed out,


I can't remember where I read it, but recently one of the sites talked about the unprecedented nature of FanGraphs' WAR projection for the M's this season.

The thought was that it is not uncommon for an aging star to lose much of his WAR value in a single season.  It happens.

But what is uprecedented is this: between Cano, Cruz, Segura and Seager, the projection is that COLLECTIVELY those four will lose about half of their 2016 WAR (46%) this year.  Not to say that's impossible--but that it's unpredictable.  It's collective worst case scenario on a grand scale.

So let's say those guys combine to lose just a quarter of their 2016 WAR--still a serious situation.  If you add back in the difference berween a quarter and a half, we move right up to the level of the Astros, fighting for the division, and a likely wild card team.


It doesn't take a lot of imagination to predict that old baseball players will decline.  That's part of the reason that Dipoto is moving on his win-now pieces, isn't it?  Not very good form to tell Dipoto "Felix and Cruz are aging; you don't have much of a window here!" and then turn around and tell him those old players mean that he should come out with his hands in the air.

Not that anybody said that, exactly :- )

Caveats and Quid Pro Quo's are these:  nobody at SSI, especially me, is going to be stunned if these four players drop off a lot.  Nobody's going to be stunned if James Paxton is killed by a fastball ricochet'ing off the backstop.  Nobody's going to be stunned if Leonys Martin sparks a clubhouse mutiny that gets Servais fired, Don Wakamatsu / Chone Figgins style.  Slop happens.

But here's Point A:  half the idea of playing Stars & Scrubs is that if your stars drop off, they're still good.  Spend $37 on Paul Goldschmidt and if he has a down year, still get you thirty dingers.  Your three Stars disappoint, they still produce, and you still got 22 roster slots left.  That's first principles.


Point B if these four players were Houston Astros, Tottenham Hotspur or even pesky rodent Angels, I'd still be drafting them all near the very top of their positions for 2017.  Here's why:



Wellllll ... he was worth 5.7 WAR last year, per  If he's worth 2.5 or 3.0 next year then

1) That's what Dipoto said when he traded for him, "we plan on getting something somewhere in the middle"

2) The 2016 Mariners didn't have 5.7 WAR at shortstop; they had -1.2

3) Steamer is using a "heartless" MGL averaging effect based on Segura's lost 2014 and 2015, which, Segura is not your normal case here



1) They've got him for 4.0 WAR, which is nothing more than "smoothing" (you can't pencil a bunch of guys in for 5.5 WAR)



1) They've got him for 3.8 WAR (see Seager, Kyle)



1) They've got him to bat .265/.335/.500, which is probably right (and which would be just fine)



That Cruz and Cano are going to retire sometime, we knew already.  The thing is, when we are getting set to draft our fantasy baseball teams this March, we proceed from "Is this guy over 30 years old?" to the corollary question "How did he hit late last year?"   


Bopper AVG OBP SLG Time frame Remark
Segura, SS .329 .381 .572 2H of 2015 203 hits in the year; 23 doubles, 14 homers after break
Cano, 2b .297 .337 .545 Aug-Sept 2015 He's signed for 7 more years; he BETTER hit
Cruz, dh .295 .352 .571 2H of 2015 The last month he looked like Benjamin Button
Seager, 3b Can't dignify this row with an input


It's one thing to worry that Nelson Cruz won't hit for three more years; that makes sense.  It's a different thing to worry he won't hit next month.  Nelson Cruz next MONTH is not the worry here, gentlemen.  Dan Vogelbach is the worry here.


Dr D



TOTO, Back end rotaion, Bullpen, bench, baserunning...How many things have to improve to quell the "if the MOTO (OF bats, young players..)fail to produce, we're screwed" thoughts I keep hearing.  The team is not made up of only 1 aspect, therefore it's success does not rely purely on any one.  All you can do (Dipoto, anyway) is attempt to improve every aspect.  Aside from lower minors depth, I do believe he has done exactly that.  And significantly.

You point out that anything Segura does is a plus over last year's dismal output at SS.  The top of the order is a huge improvement as well.  Guys that can get on base ahead of a MOTO that will still produce (just likely not at "is it the best MLB MOTO" level they were at last year).

Options that weren't in Seattle last April, but have a decent chance to be on base at an above average clip ahead of that MOTO include Segura, Valencia, Haniger, Dyson, Heredia, Vogelbach and O'Malley.   Those that haven't previously produced at some point above the .321 MLB average OBP of last year have done significantly above it in AAA.  Motter and Gamel have put up above it at AAA as well,though not as significantly.  You could add Ruiz and Freeman to that list and I think everyone expects O'Neill simply needs the AAA PA in order to be added as well.  I'm not saying they're all ideal top of the order bats but give me a .350 OBP and we can work around the flaws.

The list of removed players that would have fit the OBP criteria last year were mostly older guys.  Lind, Guti, Aoki, Smith, Ianetta and the Marte/Taylor logjam.  Only Smith remained as productive.

I'm pretty secure in thinking they may hit less HR but will score more runs.  And give up less runs.  If those 2 things happen, it should have more affect than any other 1 aspect would. 


Replace a -1.0 WAR SS Position (Remember Luis Sardinas face planting in 30 games?) with an All Star.  Replace a -0.5 WAR 1B Position with a guy that has a 20% BB rate and power in the minors and another that hit Lefties at an .865 OPS the last 3 seasons.  Keep the Outfield offense more or less the same (sans 200 AB from Cruz moving to DH) -15 Home Runs, +45 SB, but increase the defense by maybe 50 Runs of value.  Change the bullpen from something that featured 60 innings from Mayckol GuaipeCody MartinDavid RollinsJonathan AroSteve JohnsonDonn Roach, and a very near 40-year-old Joel Peralta to one that has maybe one of the top 5 Closers in the game, with a former closer set-up man, and that is otherwise massively more stable than last season, and features a depth of backups with an average velocity around 96mph.  It's mystifying to me the low rating for a team that was 2nd in the AL in wRC+ last season that made those improvements against losing a pair of platoon outfield bats.  

"Oh no!  The game's second best DH will be 36!"  Who was the best?  41-year-old David Ortiz, who is still projected for a 132 wRC+ by fangraphs were he to play vs. Cruz' 125.

"Oh no!  The future Hall of Fame 2B will be 34!"  It's funny that Daniel Murphy, who is only 2.5 years younger and coming off a 157wRC+ season fueled by a .348 BABiP and has exactly 1 season of the last 5 above a 110 wRC+, is projected to be a point better (122 vs. 121 wRC+) on Fangraphs, while featuring a BABiP 13 points above his career average.

Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Kyle Seager and his 3 year average 129 wRC+ needs to be tamped down to a 119 wRC+ projection with a BABiP 4 points under his career average and 9 points under last season's BABiP in spite of hitting the ball the hardest of his career (38.7%! Hard Contact).

Jean Segura is supposed to slip down to a 94 wRC+, virtually identical to Andrelton Simmons projection.  Jean Segura is a year younger, hit the ball Hard 29.7% of the time last season (compared to Simmons 23.4%), has a career wRC+ 6 points higher.  Does anybody besides projection systems think that you won't be able to tell Jean Segura's and Andrelton Simmons stat lines apart at the end of next season?

Go figure on projection systems, it's hard to find reasons beyond a lazy resort to age that the Mariners' offense will shrink drastically next season; pretty much nobody (but for Segura) was particularly lucky in their contact, and every one of the four MOTO guys hit the ball as hard or harder than they had for their entire career.  The Starting Pitching might be a little dodgy, but even that feels much more stable than last season if not particularly improved.  This is a team I'm excited to watch this year.

hanjag's picture

I have the same point of view. I look at Mike Trout whoo is 25 and averaged almost 10 WAR the last 5 years and they project him for under 6 WAR.



Jed's picture

My job is to literally forecast sales for a Fortune 100 company. Our team basically talks about 2 things when it comes to doing a good job. There is the science of forecast and then there is the art. I know Matt has a ton of forecast training with his background, so I won't be surprised when/if he steps in and has great points that counter or support what I'm typing. Probably others here too that I can't specifically remember.

On science, we have fancy, expensive software that takes history that includes similar items, applies the latest and greatest math, and gives you a base forecast. Every company has software and everyone's base forecast with math is similar. Some software is better, but they'll all give you essentially the same number. It's why Zips and Steamer, etc. all have similar numbers for the vast majority of players.

The big differences would come from which historical group of players were selected as the basis to run the formulas. Given the time and amount of money the people that run Zips, etc. get paid, I doubt there is a lot of historical selection for player forecasting. For example, Seager is being forecast using a ton of players, not just LH gold glove 3B with a great work ethic. That gigantic group of players will drop Seager's #'s much further down if there was time, money, and a benefit for Zips to narrow the comp players to a more similar group. Of course there aren't a ton of player comps and how you limit the group for Seager is art, but math still would be applied and you'd have a better base forecast. Joking aside, take Robin Ventura's same age season when healthy and bump it up by a WAR or 2.

That'a still a base forecast. If you want a good forecast, that is where the art comes in. There are so many variables that can't be built into software that a good forecaster needs to be aware of and adjust the numbers before the final forecast is made. The math will probably take you in the right direction, but let's look at Segura.

Math-wise, he had a couple of bad years, but with one average year and one good year. That 100 wRC+ is a real nice math forecast. If I built the software and didn't care about individual player numbers, I'd be happy with the forecast. If I was being paid by a MLB team, I wouldn't stop there. Why did he have 2 bad years? Was his mind not focused because of the death of his child? I've been around people who have lost children and 2 years seems like a reasonable, if not a short time, for it to impact work performance. I know people 35 years later that are still affected daily by that loss. I don't know Segura, but if was going to forecast his numbers, I'd account for that in the 2 years data and adjust. And that's just one tiny piece of the "art" that goes into forecasting his numbers.

Thats a lot of words, but the point is the Zips or Steamer or whatever forecast that we look at will give you a nice start. The M's at 84 or so wins is cool. A good forecaster would look deeper and adjust. I'm not a good sports forecaster, but I'd start the M's at 86-88 wins. If Felix or Paxton has an "ace" season and I'm a bullish fan, I'd go to 95 wins. DiPoto will pick up the extra pen arm or OF bat or whatever piece is missing in mid June or July. And I think the affect of an ace goes more to winning actual games than the innings calc of WAR on BRef does.

And one little edit, you will always be wrong forecasting. You have to enjoy learning and the process of improving to do the job. It's like playing an instrument where you need to enjoy playing if you want to be good.


Agreed with every word.

Folks around the game don't take ZIPS very seriously...they use it as a starting point to quick-sort when rifling through a list of names that interest them or that are available and fit a need, but then they do personal research and look at metrics that can't be in the big projection systems because they are only available for the last three years or nine years or whathaveyou...and they talk to scouts...they ask "did he really earn those numbers? What did you see that would explain this?"

I love trying to forecast.  I'm a's a lot of what we do.  Especially in weather science.  But you have to use your brain can't just take the projections as gospel.


That's a good term for it, "base projections," that should be ported across from F-500 to sabermetrics.  Except it isn't easy to get sabes to concede lack of accuracy ... :- )

Don't know how long you've been reading Jed, but at SSI just for fun we'll take stabs at listing out our own "essential characteristics" for a given player and his comps, as opposed to the James Similarity Scores that kicked off the whole PECOTA-style industry.  

Keep it comin' amigo.

Jed's picture

since slightly after the USSM - Dectovision disagreement. I enjoy your side of looking at players, but I don't have the pleasure of watching games.

The cost of paying for all that TV and all the channels I have to buy vs. radio isn't something I'm willing to pay. It makes it tough for me to rate or group players, but I still enjoy baseball as much as ever.


140 bucks per need for expensive cable packages other than internet access of sufficient quality...

Jed's picture

 I 'd pay $10 a month just for M's games if I could stream it on my tv. It's not really cost, but the ads on regular tv doesn't fit with the way I raise my kids.


Have reply in the moderating queue as Anonymous. You know how it goes. You read something you want to respond to, put your thoughts down in a reply, only to find out that this time you were not logged in. Lest this be understood as a complaint, from my experience it is becoming increasingly common for websites to prevent automatic login periodically. I figure it's for security reasons.


At some point, the cable TV operators and TV content creators are going to realize that it's the commercials that are largely causing people to cut the cord. Channel bloat is a big piece as well but it's the commercials that really irritate people. I cut the cord a while ago but I'm staying in temporary "corporate" housing in San Diego and it comes with Cable TV. It's kind of maddening to watch programming with commercials once you've seen it without. 

The commercial interruption strategy that I'm least fond of: They cut away from the program for the commercial block, come back, have some stupid 30 second cut away that doesn't advance the story at all and then right back to the commercial block. I mean, come on...


...cable companies only survive on the willingness of advertisers to pay money for their products to appear on air on the various networks so that the networks can then afford to pay to be included in the line-up of channels offered by the cable provider.  You are never....ever.......ever.....EVER...going to be rid of commercials, and the cable companies aren't going to be able to lead the fight to reduce them. Even if they know that their customers are leaving for netflix because of commercials, they can't stop airing commercials...they die if they do...they die if they don't.

Jed's picture

but 100% correct about it being ads. We check out movies and books at the library and do Netflix. We have bunny ears for broadcast tv, 90% PBS and mute the ads for other channels.

 I understand the business, but I'm willing to pay for what I want to watch. And it isn't ads that are so intrusive and awful in so many ways.

Anonymous's picture

In the immortal words of Allen Toussaint as sung by Lee Dorsey in "Working In A Coal Mine" (1966), "Lord, I'm so long can this go ON?!"

How long can the stranglehold of regional sports networks like ROOT continue to funnel their programming exclusively through highly lucrative deals struck with cable and sattelite companies? How long in the face fans, consumers who want to be rid of these monopolistic behemoths beholden to large telecommunications conglomerates? How long before you can add $20 a month to regular MLB TV in order to view your local team's games as part of the package?

The cable companies know their only remaining leverage is live local sports, so they use it like a ball and chain on their customers. You want live local sports? You gotta subscribe to us.

The Other Billy Zoom's picture

...delivers like you did with that post, Jed, the M's are good for 90 wins.

Art can hide behind numbers, or numbers can hide behind art.

There is a balance, no matter how visible or decipherable.

It is not layers on an onion, but layers in an onion patch ... and the plant viruses, rodents, birds, weeds, and inclement weather have to be kept away from the patch (i.e. Astros, Rangers, Bosox, Dodgers, Cubs, et alles).


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