Using the TB Rays as a Case Study, and specifically looking at '08 and '10, what might we need in terms of bats, to be pretty dang successful.
Well: It looks like you need two 130-ish bats in the everyday lineup and another part-timer at that level of production. Then get 4 guys in the 100-105 OPS range, and you can be an offensive threat (of course).
The '10 Rays had Longoria at 143 and Crawford at 135. Joyce, in 261 PA's, was at 132.
The '08 Rays had Pena at 129, Longoria at 127 and Zobrist, in 227 PA's at 120.
OK: Extrapolate from there. Can two guys from the list of Carp, Smoak, Montero, and Ackley whack in the 130 range? In the current likely lineup configuration, they are the guys most capable of approaching that number.
Who is our super-bench bat? Jaso? Wells? Then you need Guti, Ichiro,Seager or Figgins (it sounds more and more like he's going to be a utility guy or the '12 M's, playing a fair amount) or a couple of the above mentioned guys (maybe 5 guys total) to be in the 95-110 range. Given the arms we have, that will be quite enough. Tall order isn't it? But, really, everybodyon that list has hinted at that level of production...well maybe except Jaso...and I ain't buying the Figgins rebirth. Is Liddi in the 3B hunt? I would suspect not, if Figgins is kept around. I hat that because Liddi showed that he could be a 110+ mashere, despite the K's. So....there's type of template to ponder. It worked for the Rays (last year they had 4 guys near/above the 130 OPS number) in '08 and '10, it could work for the M's. Thinking about it, the Safeco effect would probably reduce the needed numbers a bit. So, let's shoot for two 125 guys in the lineup and another off the bench.
Using the TB Rays as a Case Study, and specifically looking at '08 and '10, what might we need in terms of bats, to be pretty dang successful.
Forgot to log in OR sign. That one was mine.
I've made that comp as well this offseason. But how did they gain 31 wins in a year?
Unlike us, they were hitting the year before (103 OPS+ in 2007, 101 in 2008) - they needed arms, and found them (ERA+ from 82 to 116 in a year).
So the problem I'm looking at right now actually isn't with the lineup, it's with these 2 numbers:
That's the WAR we lost from Fister and Pineda. Bedard had 1.5 as well in half a year, so when you consider that over the whole year Fister was a 5.5 WAR player...ouch.
If our rotation was Felix / Fister / Pineda / Vargas / Iwakuma with Hultzen and Paxton fighting to get Vargas traded soon, I'd feel perfectly content expecting our staff to crush the opposition while this exact offense crawled up to around a 100 OPS+ and we contended.
Felix / Iwakuma / Vargas / Beavan / Millwood? Yeah...we're gonna need some luck there.
So like I said, this may not be the year since our staff strength was depleted to fix the O and was only average overall last year anyway, even with 3 juggernauts in the rotation.
But the fun thing about pitching is that the adjustment period could be long...or negligible. If your game translates, then it translates (see Pineda). Our pitching value came from basically 6 arms last year: Felix, Pineda, Fister, Vargas, Bedard and League. Half those guys aren't here now, so we need to make it up if we're to make hay in the division in 2012.
Anybody wanna place bets on what Iwakuma can bring to the table and how soon our minor league hydra heads begin poking their heads around on the 25 man roster, starting with Hultzen and Paxton?
Because I feel pretty good about what our offense is capable of. They may not reach those capabilities out of the gate...but they intrigue me.
The ability of our staff to keep us in games and win em, especially early in the season, is a crucial element to pulling off a 2008 Rays-level surprise. Don't wanna be tossing in the towel in the middle of May only to have the mega-talented kids start storming the beaches with guns blazing in July.
Here's hoping Millwood can help with those early months.
A good reason I hope we're still in on Oswalt.
If everything plays right, we're looking at at a lot of positions producing ~5 WAR: C, 2B, CF; and maybe 1B, LF (Wells/Carp judicious semi platoon) and RF (fully resurgent Ichiro... less likely). Throw in a few WAR at SS and figure RL at 3B at least and you have a pretty nice, even sweet, contribution from the position players. But as pointed out above, you don't even need everything to be that rosy to compete.
Unfortunately, it sounds like a quite a few teams are interested in Roy. It would be nice to have two kings (Felix and "Roy"). Kinda like Sparta!
While I agree that the M's are likely to see a drop off from Pineda to Noesi and from Fister to Iwakuma, predicting what that drop will be is beyond my capabilities. I wouldn't be shocked to see both Iwakuma and Noesi toss 3 WAR seasons.
Is there gonna be a drop off from Bedard (and other 5th starters) to whomever wins the out from the Millwood, Beavan, Furbush, Hultzen, and Paxton dice roll at the spot? Prolly not. Check out Mr. Larue's take on the rotation: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners/2012/01/30/mariners-arms-will-be...
And what about Vargas and his vaunted 'twist'? In five starts in Sep/Oct he was 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and k/9 of 7.7! Can we predict an UP year for him?
And what about the atrocity that was the bullpen for the first half of 2011? Going into 2012 we look waaaaaay better situated to close out games with a shutdown group of reievers.
The 2011 M's played .500 ball and sat a game and a half out of first in July.
How are the 2012 M's not better?
That's certainly why I was a fan of signing Fielder (albeit to A-Gone money, not A-Rod money). I think the M's threw enough spaghetti at the wall and had enough of it stick (Ackley, Smoak, Carp, Wells, and Seager) that adding a big-stick would vault us into contention.
So, going into 2012 I see this as a .500 team. But not just any .500 team. A .500 team with a AAA rotation in Tacoma that very well could be Hultzen, Paxton, Ramirez, Furbush and Snow. And young guns like Martinez, Catricala and Franklin knocking on the door for positional call-ups.
I don't agree with Baker's latest hit piece. This team can contend this year, and certainly if things break right this team will be well positioned to contend next year.
I've been a fan forever. But I do believe the reports that he wants the Rangers or the Red Sox, so I can't see us getting him inked.
I would say that, prior to Spring Training, we're looking at Felix / Iwakuma / Vargas / Millwood as 4 of our starting 5, and wondering whether one of the rocket arms can overcome Beavan for the 5th spot if one of the other control arms can't.
That's not a sexy rotation, but it could be a very effective one. If Iwakuma air-drops in with heavy artillery while Vargas and Millwood provide the kind of multi-WAR backup they could and should, it'll get sexy in a hurry.
I'm nort as worried abut the pitching as some here...but I agree...I'm actually now less worried about the offense than I am about the staff. Our bullpen will, IMHO, almost certianly improve over last year...but we're going to need to be VERY agile with the arms. If Millwood flops, he needs to go for a big arm in a few starts. If Iwakuma doesn't have it, he needs to go to the pen and we need to call up someone else, etc. I would really like to get a veteran big gun (Oswalt, e.g.) to stave off trouble. But I actually think Vargas will have an UP year and I like our chances of getting more out of King Felix than we did in 2011.
On my sleeper: John Jaso
-- John Jaso has only had one bad season in pro baseball (2011)
-- Except for last year's .651, his lowest OPS in a full season was .727
-- Except for last year's .298, his lowest OBP in a full season was .362
-- Instead of showing flashes of good stats amid some ugly ones (*cough*casperwells*cough*), Jaso piled on pretty stats on top of pretty stats right up until last year
-- Jaso drew 59 walks (vs. 49 K), then 72 BB (vs. 47 K), then 46 (vs. 49 K), then 59 BB (in the majors) (vs. 39 K)
-- Jaso has never struck out more than 15% of PAs (including his lost season in 2011)
-- Do you know how hard it is to K less than 15% of PAs and HR more than 3% of PAs over a season? Only 3 current Ms have done it: Montero, Smoak and Jaso.
-- Do you know how hard it is get an XBH or BB in more than 20% of PAs while striking out in less than 15%? Only Ackley, Seager, Smoak and Jaso have done it.
What went wrong in 2011? He was hurt, his BABIP plunged to .244 (had never dropped below .281 before), and he was fishing at pitches outside the zone (O-swing up from 18.5 to 22.6%). He was still making contact, but obviously hitting the ball with less authority.
It's not just that his minor league numbers (and 2010 MLB numbers) show more promise than Wells ... his minor league numbers show more promise than Carp. At least on the things that I look at.
Jaso had a 111 OPS+ and was a 2.7 WAR player (fangraphs) in 2010 (2.3 per b-ref). 5.3 RC/27 per b-ref in 2010. To me, 2011 looks like the outlier, not 2010.
If he can get to the plate, of course.
Great point Ben. There are .500 teams and .500 teams. .500 with hope of a future would be great. .500 with re-treads is depressing. The future rotation gets exciting!
It doesn't sound like Oswalt is much of an option. But can someone tell me why we aren't going after E Jackson? If the answer is "because we got Millwood and Noesi" then count me in the group (including Dave Cameron and Geoff) that is ultimately a little dissatisfied with the offseason. Fine, let one of them fight for the 5 spot, but they can't be alternatives to bringing in a guy who profiles as a 2-3.
Were ownership to actually cut payroll to $80 million, I would feel personally slapped in the face to be honest. I mean, isn't slashing payroll twice after giving Seattle 200 losses in two years just kicking us when we're down? Cameron and Baker thinks that it is indeed being slashed.
Now I'm as big a believer in our core as anyone, but why can't we give EJax $10 million for a couple years? I'm certainly not worried about Vargas, Millwood, Noesi or Iwakuma blocking our holy triumvirate. I looovveee Montero and am confident the trade will at least be a win-win, and maybe a win-lose (favoring us, hedging against Pineda's health). But I agree with Dave Cameron that it should have been followed by an aftershock deal inolving a #2. Unless I'm mistaken, in the FA market at this point, that's Jackson and Oswalt. Soooo.....
Jack Z has stated multiple times that ownership will be willing to go Big Splash, when the time comes. I want a Smart Medium Splash. It's great that there'll come a time when they say "here's your big name, now shower us with love and adoration." And JZ is certainly piling up the Small Splash options like Brian Sweeney and even Iwakuma from a $ standpoint. Does he have the backing of the owners to indeed split up Prince's would-be $25 million to get us a #2? Or does ownership have more selfish intentions, only putting forth the dough when they can mutually benefit from the approval they'll get from fans?
Long story short, reading Geoff and Cameron's articles has me feeling a little blue...
If this team can avoid the inconsistencies normal to young players, and if most of the young players play well, then the upside for this team could very well surprise us. The thing is, even talented young players are usually plagued by inconsistency. They will flash their potential in exciting fashion for periods, but those periods will also be surrounded by frustrating lapses. Or their inexperience will be exploited by veteran pitchers at key moments.
That's why most managers prefer vets. They know what they can count on for the most part, and they know the veterans have learned what to watch out for in key situations.
Still, there's always the possibility for a perfect storm when you have the quantity and quality of young talent that the M's do.
I definitely agree that a young .500 club with upside is far preferable to a veteran club that has reached its level at .500. Personally I think this club will bring us a mixture of exciting fun and frustrating disappointment in 2012. That's what I would expect from a young club. Anything better is gravy.
C'mon man. In our situation, payroll is almost immaterial right now. What is important is the vast improvement in the level of talent in the system over the last three years. Young, club controlled players are cheap... For a while. Jackson isn't that great, and it would probably take 4 years to sign him, which would probably block some of the young guys. Oswalt is perfect because he wants a short contract, and could easily be flipped at the deadline for prospects if needed. Just because there may be money compared to last year's payroll doesn't mean is should be spent just for the sake of spending it. Those club controlled guys will start getting expensive someday soon.
OTOH, maybe they're just waiting Jackson out to see if they can get a steal...
(and of course we shouldn't do it just for the sake of doing it)
it will be just a little TOO convenient in my book, a little TOO cute.
It's fine that in general the plan revolves around a core of kids, but are we what, just supposed to ignore that the way they are choosing to implement the plan saves the club a bunch of money several years running, and in ever-increasing amounts? Are we supposed to pretend that the reason for the savings is for the better implementation of the plan?
If they held payroll at 2011 levels we could afford, as suggested above, a one-or-two-year upper MOR rotation pitcher instead of Millwood, etc. And that's not supposed to help? Why are we again bottom feeders, perhaps crafty bottom-feeders, but still bottom-feeders in the free agent market when smart, short-term free agents are available that are not bottom-feeders?
I'm all for enjoying the youth movement, and I plan to do so this year.
But I cannot ignore what to me seems as plain as the nose on Jimmy Durante's face (or Karl Malden for those who don't know Jimmy Durante, not sure who the youthful equivalent would be). Ownership is choosing a rebuild plan which has what is to them an important, indeed very important side-benefit to their bottom line, and they are doing it at the expense of competitiveness on the field. They could hold payroll, sign Oswalt or E-Jack, and it would have zero negative effect on the youth movement. They could yet do that, but I think the $3-4 million to spend rumor is turning out to have legs.
This whole thing is not a new phenomenon for us Mariners fans in the Lincoln-Armstrong-Yamauchi years.
For several years there we could at least say they were holding $90 million payrolls. Now any pretense of holding a competitive payroll is going out the window while we rebuild with youth. It simply doesn't have to be that way, even with a youthful rebuild.
Just because we feel like we have money to burn and want to put it somewhere.
After all this work to obtain payroll flexibility and young talent, we need to have the roster add up to some arbitrary salary figure to show we're serious about winning?
Look, I'm not thrilled either at the idea that we're cutting payroll...but who says we're doing that? If Iwakuma is brilliant and we sign him to a 5 year extension for 60 mil, then we're not cutting payroll, we just delayed using it - and we wanted to confirm Iwakuma's health and stateside success before spending the cash.
Or maybe like Grumpy says we're driving hard bargains. Iwakuma is pitching for us for nothing, so that's certainly possible. Or saving funds for a trade during the year, for an Alex-Gordon type, who will need to be extended.
I hear DaddyO loud and clear: most of us have been very disappointed by the payroll chicanery around here over the last decade. "Freddy Garcia's arbitration win stole all our cookies" is a teeth gritting phrase.
But I don't know how the Mariners are feeling about payroll and their future plans. I don't need the payroll THIS year just to keep that $90 million-ish figure from falling if the player doesn't fit. But after talking to Zduriencik, Jerry Crasnick says "The Mariners' payroll is expected to top $90 million again this year." Maybe he's inventing that idea, or Jack lied to him, or the Mariners are gonna spend 20 million on international free agents this signing period.
But I don't need the Ms to force it. Add the right player or players to this team, not just the ones that cost the right amount on the spreadsheet. If Edwin Jackson doesn't want to come here (let's say he likes Boston better) should we overpay him to make it happen?
Should we have done that with the Pineda trade? "I'm sorry, I can't take just Montero because he doesn't make enough money, can't you throw Burnett into the deal too?" That seems silly to me.
If we don't feel we need him, should we sign Jackson (or anyone) to a 4-year contract just to prove we're serious? Just a week ago we were rumored to be in on Jackson if he DOES want a 1-year deal to prove himself, since the Safe would be great for that and we'd maintain payroll flexibility as well as hedge bets for the coming year.
So it doesn't sound like money is the issue. Roster construction is the issue. I'd love to add Edwin for a year and extend whichever is better between he and Iwakuma. That's great for us and a good way to hold payroll decisions while awaiting more information as well.
But if we stand pat we're cutting payroll for the year by 10 or 15 million and coming nowhere near that $90 mil figure. I expect to add some to get to it, whether it's now or at the deadline, or even in the offseason once our needs are properly understood. And to be honest I'm thrilled that we didn't give a Cuddyer 4/40 just to make bloggers and sportswriters satisfied with our monetary expenditures.
If payroll keeps shrinking and we force Jack to do this rebuild while continually cutting 8 figures a year from the budget, that's a huge problem for me.
If we're letting the GM build the team as he sees fit and not blowing it on any more Figginses (like Bagginses...) then I can't complain. Pay great players to come here - and to stay here. Add great young talent to the team. Build the farm and the wins.
And as the guide says...Don't Panic!
Past payroll failures are not necessarily indicative of future results.
I suppose that is the take on the situation that I had to hear. I hope and think it's true. Geoff certainly seems to ascribe the notion that no money = no winning for a long time, and Cameron flat out doesn't think we have enough talent and depth to be able to say we're proud of our 2012 product, but you are certainly right that we don't know all aspects of the team's finances. Z is most definitely confident in the cheap pieces he's assembled. Gravy, it doesn't cost us money to play them now. But then I'll want to see the brass extend the ones we want to keep when the time comes. As someone said awhile back, it's unfortunate that we have to play this guessing game with our ownership: "are they really committed to winning?" Because if I was 100% sure of that, then the money, or lack thereof presented, wouldn't be an issue. It just happens that if you aren't 100% sure, seeing your owners put lots of dough on the table is one way of being validated.
So I will reserve a little skepticism, but assume that Jack is confident enough in his pieces to say "no, I don't need Edwin for 4 years because Erasmo is gonna impress you guys this spring." Either way, let's get this thing rolling.
spending it just to spend, as if payroll in and of itself is magic, and 2011 payroll is sacrosanct.
Sure, if there is literally no way to spend another $10 million wisely, then by all means forgo it.
It's possible that Jack is holding back funds for in-season trade flexibility. Perhaps he wants to see what he has through spring and for a couple or three months of the season, then if circumstances warrant make a high-cost targeted move.
It's possible Jack has yet to make one more significant move this offseason and his comments to the contrary are just smoke and mirrors.
It's possible that Jack has already calculated the payroll it will take to lock up all the talented young players he expects to emerge as stars.
It's also possible that Jack has simply been told to reduce payroll again.
We just don't know.
As I said, it's all too convenient for my taste, given the history of this organization.
The Mariners have earned all the doubts that we have about their seriousness when it comes to truly competing - and paying what it takes to compete.
But the Mets and the Cubs have shown that money alone does not = competitive teams. And with our $100 million, 100-loss team we've made our dubious notes in support of that statement too.
If the Mariners will pay what it takes when the opportunities are there, I'll have no complaints.
If we can't add mid-season trades because Ackley made $800k too much in arb then I'll light some torches and storm the castle right with you, DaddyO.
But I'm gonna wait through this year to see what the next moves are, and how much payroll we've set aside to accomplish this resurrection. I may be unsure about the stones of the men with the purse-strings, but Jack feels like he has the burning desire to win that I want to see out of the front office.
And if he finally turns the corner with this talent and we start the climb back up then perhaps he can inspire the money-men to man up as well.
Jaso's upside (historical, btw) is why I want to see him as the 120 game catcher (OK..give Montero the rest of the catching games if it makes you happy).
As an offensive player, I have more confidence in Jaso than I do in Guti. And that seems to be a likely either/or.
If Montero catches, Carp DH's, Wells goes to left, Guti is in center (or something similar).
If Jaso catches, Montero DH's, Carp is in left and Wells is in CF. I like that.
If Montero catches and Wells is in CF and Liddi DH's....I like that more than the Guti deal. Guti can not play vs. RHP
But there is a better solution!
Career vs. RHP Guti is .246-.294-.354, that's deadly! Brendan Ryan's vR career splits are .252-.303-.341! Guti OPs's .648 and Ryan .644. Guti = Ryan vR. You can't pack that production in CF for nearly 70%-75% of the AB's and go very far. Not in the AL West in 2012. You can not win with two Brendan Ryans in the lineup for 70-75% of your games.
Wells' career vR splits (very limited AB's, I know) look like .264-.326-.485. That's an .811 OPS. Even in '09, Guti's "breakout" season (and the one everyone hopes he returns to) he only had vR numbers of .262-.309-.372 (only 25 xbase hits 436 PA's).
If it's me pulling the levers, and if Guti must stay, then he is my 4th OF. His starts come against LHP, where his career numbers are .282-.343-.454.
Doc, that's what Earl would do. Guti would be a terrific 8th inning defensive replacement and great bench bat.
Jaso stuggles against LHP, btw. Let him start just against righties, Montero catches against lefties. Guti then goes to CF, Wells to LF, and Carp to DH....all against lefties.
Jaso is the primary catcher (vR's...where he's a career .254-.342-.379 104 OPS bat, despite a low .271 babip), which gets Guti out of the lineup the 70-75% of the time when we see RHP.
You have to let Olivo go. That ain't a hard thing to do.
There's part one of the fix. Part two is that you either pray that Figgins is a player again (unlikely) or you eat his salary and go with Liddi or Seager. The more I think about it, the more I would platoon those guys, too. Take advantage of their leftie/rightie makeup. Both did show a platoon advantage last year. Liddi stays warm with 20 starts at DH, when you rest Smoak.
Give up on Figgins. Go with the young guys.
With such a set up you keep Ryan for his glove and you field better than decent bats everywhere else. Seeking two 130 OPS guys and a bunch more in the 100-110 region? This is the route.
Doc, conjure up the ghost of Earl Weaver and show him that lineup. Watch him smile.
Don't you find it interesting that, if you approach things as if the payroll reductions were simply a matter of seeing nothing available that would conform to the rebuild plan, this state of affairs has happened, what, three or four years running?
I mean, I can believe that state of affairs might occur in a given offseason, but not if it's trotted out year after year without interruption. An event is one thing. A trend is another.
What is the driver of the trend? The rebuild plan itself? By an immutable implementation, one where "Thou Shalt Not Make For Thyself Any Graven Premium Free Agent" and "Like You Once Did The Expensive Free Agent, You Shall Worship The Prospect, And Him Only Shall You Serve"?
Surely the driver is shrinking attendance, and the shrinking attendance is being driven by the team's lack of competitiveness on the field, which in turn drives further erosion of attendance.
That's why I find it too convenient. The Plan just happens to result in a five (or more) year period of consistent, significant payroll reduction. If I'm asked whether I believe such a phenomenon is being driven by The Plan, or whether The Plan is being shaped to a significant degree by outside forces that demand a sustained payroll reduction, I can only believe the latter.
It's all so unnecessary, and it's the kind of thinking that led to a the kinds of bottom-feeder signings we've made since the Front Office "got religion" after the failures of the Bavasi era.
Let me end my thoughts by reiterating that despite this opinion, I'm very much looking forward to seeing the youth movement, such as it is with all it's bursting potential, unfold this spring and summer.
Or should I say excessive, on-paper profit safeguards, considering the team is still increasing in value every year regardless of spending. The Mariners have always tied payroll to attendance. It's kind of them to be honest about it. Their payroll budget is Expected Income Minus 7 Million, give or take (if Jack begs, they might take a $5 million "hit" last year, for instance, and then cut payroll by an extra 5 the following year to make it up).
So on the one hand, Jack is doing what he's asked to do: maintain that on-paper-reported profitability.
OTOH, I have no idea if he's now trusted enough to spend big bucks. We'll find out after the season when Ichiro's $20 mil evaporates and we have a ridiculous differential between our claimed $90 mil payroll and our actual player budget.
In the micro sense, I don't mind passing on specific players, or having The Plan give us a cheaper Montero instead of a more expensive option like Justin Upton. It was Jack's job to add a MOTO bat, not an expensive bat, and he did his job.
On the macro level, I absolutely agree with you that having more evidence that LOOKS like our cheap-minded ownership is continuing their aribtrary salary constraints is frustrating.
I'm just hoping that the reasons for a potentially-lower payroll this year are different than years past, and it's only because it's occuring on the heels of previous budget slashes that the correlation is made. ;)
Of course, that might just be because I don't want to be mad right before Spring Training and our extremely talented youth movement takes the field, like you said.
Why not Cespedes? BA has him as a top 5-10 prospect if he was eligible for there list. Sounds like he's gonna need more than Chapman. I would think 5-35 might get it done. That seems like a good bet for a very high return. People have said Stanton upside. Use thi a years extra cookies to sigh another top talent. Combined with the #3 pick in the next draft, that injects a ton of extra talent into the system. Am I nuts?
We discussed this last week in this thread.
Cool Papa had the line of the month: "I want to see him play - just not on my team." :- )
If you can ignore Cespedes' personality, I'm sure he'd win you plenty of games...