From DH to C: Generic diff is 30 runs. For M's it's 40 to 60


It's not hard to get a feel for the value of JESUS MONTERO, C if you zero in on the paradigm of player-pairs.  

The generic adjustment is to assume that you'll see about 25-30 runs' worth of offensive difference between C and 1B.  The M's, however, don't have Mike Napoli or Victor Martinez or Russell Martin at catcher; they have Miguel Olivo.  And it ain't like Adam Moore is going to come up and improve the position.

For the M's, on Opening Day 2012, let's compare Miguel Olivo at his 2011 level of production (3.1 runs per 27 outs) and Justin Smoak at a 115-120 OPS+ level of production, about 6.0 runs per 27 outs.  6.0 runs per 27 is high, you think?  Actually, it's what the M's paid for, and it's below what Smoak has done in his hot streaks to date.  But suppose you think Smoak will be gone.  Fine, pencil Mike Carp in for the 115-120 OPS+.

  • Montero, C + Smoak/Carp 1B/DH = 95 runs created per season
  • Montero, 1B/DH + Olivo, C = 55 runs created per season

You're talking about 40 runs' difference if Smoak (or Carp) has a merely solid year, and that is assuming that Justin Smoak does not have a major breakout season -- say, 115 runs created, like Alex Gordon did last year.  With Montero at catcher, you'd be giving yourself that chance to get a big Smoak season -- and therefore 60 runs' difference.



There is nothing unusual about a team getting 60 or 70 runs' difference between their 1B and their C platoon.  For example, in 2011:

  • 135 runs created - Adrian Gonzalez
  • 74 runs created - Saltalamacchia + Varitek
  • +61 runs difference

The New York Yankees, with a very good catcher, had "only" 

  • 103 runs - Mark Teixeira
  • 69 runs - Martin + Cervelli
  • +44 runs difference

At the extremes, this difference can approach 100 runs!, as with 2010's Cardinals:

  • 143 runs - Albert Pujols
  • 47 runs - Molina + Larue
  • +96 runs

What if you don't have much of a stoploss at catcher?  Check out the 2010 Mariners' production at catcher:

  • 11 runs created - Josh Bard, in 39 games
  • 13 runs created - Adam Moore, in 60 games
  • 16 runs created - Rob Johnson, in 61 games
  • 40 runs created - total

What good did Fangraphs' assumption, 60-70 batting runs from the C spot, do the 2010 Mariners?  Should the 2010 Mariners have filed with the commissioner to give them Fangraphs' generic run total at catcher?  Will the 2012 Mariners be able to file that petition?


=== Stars & Scrubs Dept. ===

You might reply, "Who knows what Justin Smoak will do at 1B?"  I might reply back, "let's think dynamically - in terms of fluid rosters and opportunity to improve."  With 1B and DH open, you have the opportunity to strive for high production.  You have the chance to have a Justin Smoak scenario go well.  

That same opportunity just does not exist at catcher.  What are you going to do, bring Adam Moore up, hope the pitching is okay, and hope he creates +25 more runs than the average AL catcher?

At 1B and DH, though, you can do exactly that.  You can put bats in there, especially top-10 draft picks like Smoak, and give yourself the chance to get lucky.

The whole idea of Stars & Scrubs is to create fungible roster slots, to create roster spaces at which you can dynamically set yourself up for overproduction.  Playing Jesus Montero at catcher is Stars & Scrubs, squared.


=== Stacked Lineup ===

The 2012 Mariners gain, it says here, 40 to 60 runs by using [Montero + Smoak/Carp] rather than using [Montero + Olivo].

But now, do you want to talk about synergy?  What is it worth, to stack an Opening Week team with pressure up-and-down the lineup?  Might this create a situation in which the April 2012 Mariners convince themselves that they can hit?

My boyhood heroes, the 1975 Reds, were limping along at 20-20 to begin the 1975 season.  Sparky Anderson decided to stack the lineup:  he pulled the feeble John Vukovich off 3B, he moved Pete Rose from LF to 3B, and he put George Foster in LF.

The Reds won 41 of their next 51 games, and became the Big Red Machine of the history books.  Because Sparky Anderson moved a glove player out of the lineup and put a bat-first player in his slot, and all the dominoes fell into place.


The 2010 and 2011 Mariners did not believe they could hit.  And with just cause.  

Radical approaches are warranted.


=== Dr's R/X ===

Fangraphs, using a subjective factor or two, gives 25-30 runs as the generic positional adjustment between C and 1B/DH.  Fine.  No doubt that's the leaguewide average.

But keep in mind that if your particular team is strapped at catcher -- as the Seattle Mariners are -- and if you have heavy lumber available at 1B -- as the Seattle Mariners probably do, with Carp, Smoak and perhaps Fielder -- then that difference becomes 40, 50, 60 ... even 90 runs.

With the 2012-14 Seattle Mariners, figure that positional adjustment as 40-60 runs.  The Mariners are going to get about 50 runs out of catcher if Montero's not there, or about 90-110 runs if they have (say) Fielder and Smoak at 1B/DH with Carp in LF.

Generic adjustments are fine.  They don't mean much compared to an adjustment that actually factors in the players available to a team, in real life.


Dr D



Is it really so hard to understand that the easiest, safest, cheapest, fastest, most reliable way to improve an MLB team is to begin where you are currently weakest? 
Nice job, Doc.

M's Watcher's picture

The next logical step would be to trade Olivo for useful parts.   He's got a year left on his contract, and might not be thrilled being upstaged by the new kid.  And Jaso bats lefty, so a good fit to give Montero a day off from catching against a righty pitcher.  So, who might want Olivo?


I understand the RC value of Montero behind the plate.....but I also understand the (typical) wear and tear that certainly digs into a catcher's multi-year performance....and probably into any single year's numbers.
I'm not worried about his will be just fine.  I worried about maximizing his offense.
It's entirely reasonable to assume you lose Montero in the lineup 20 times a season if he C/DH rather than 1B/DH.  Hitting 3rd/4th, that's likely to be 90 PA's. I hate that.
And, Doc, I'm not sure if I got it right, but I think you were assuming that if I 1B Montero then Smoak was out.  Not so.  I play with that arrangement until I find who is most comfortable at 1B and who is most comfortable at DH.  I'm playing them both.  And I'm playing Carp 150 games in LF, until he shows me hes not the homer/RBI guy he was last year.  I'm giving him the entire year to disprove that, too.


If you move Montero away from catcher, you are going to get dramatically less production overall even if you get more AB's from Montero because you will then be playing Olivo/Jaso A LOT more, and they are worse players than Mike Carp and Casper Wells. That's the whole point of this post.
Take a look at Mike Piazza's first 5 seasons with the Dodgers. He missed a lot of time in that span, yet still averaged 6.5 wins per season. In addition, Eric Karros had a 111 OPS+ in that time. How much money do you think the Dodgers would have had to have spent in order to get an above average hitter to play catcher and replace Karros' production? They would have had to spend a ton, if such a player were even available.


You would have to pay all of his salary to get anything in return, and even then it wouldn't be much. It would be far better to keep him because he is the perfect mentor for Montero. He's Latino, seems to have a good attitude, has tons of experience yet isn't a Jorge Posada-type former star whose past glory makes him feel entitled. Olivo is both nearing the end of his a career and Montero is truly special so it shouldn't be a problem for Miguel to adjust to being a bench player.
Not to mention that it's always good to have depth, which the M's don't have at catcher.


Z mentioned Gimenez a couple of times on the radio show.  I think they might be viewing him as the answer to the emergency catcher issue.  Wedge loves him, if I recall.
Z also mentioned that Jaso might have some position flexibility ( ... um, OK, he played 1b a handful of times ... ).
Sounds like they have an inkling of what they want to do.  Montero and Jaso share C with Gimenez as the extra benchie, allowing you to DH Montero on non-C days.
That would lead to Olivo getting moved.  He won't have tons of value, but he won't provide any versatility -- so see what you can get for him.
Gimenez is not as bad as his stats look (nor is Jaso as bad as his 2011 stats look).  I think the notion has some promise.


I count nine points there, all of which make a lot of sense...
Am not sure that I'm on the Olivo bandwagon for 2012, but it is definitely easy to imagine an Olivo/Montero friendship that creates a very solid situation behind the plate...
Point well taken that Miguel Olivo is hardly a Posada-style Entitled Vet (TM) though he appears to love the game and love playing every day.
Had been hoping that we were past the Chris Gimenez experience, but on a personal level he has been a Wedge buddy from way back.


Delicious complexity to the variations, and personally I have no idea what the precedents are for handling it well.  Joe Mauer's situation doesn't apply, did we decide?
Possibly the M's need to think in terms of one less pitcher.  Both Furbush and Beavan are well capable of munching 100+ innings out of the bullpen -- and let's say it's a bit risky health-wise, so are those two guys the pivot points of your future?
M's have arms backed up the pipe for 500 yards.  Use them to create extra bench space?

M's Watcher's picture

Catchers are still hard to come by in MLB.  Some team will have a need and will value a guy like Olivo.  He's only owed $3.5M in 2012 with a team option for 2013.  That isn't a financial burden as, say, Figgy's contract.  Even if we have to throw in some money to offset the remaining contract, it is pocket lint, and we'd get something of value in return.  Otherwise, we'll be carrying three C's on the 25, and have an inflexible bench.


If we traded Olivo, went with Montero-Jaso, and then Montero took a fastball off the hand and broke a metatarsal.
We'd have Jaso and ? and what would we cough up for Miguel Olivo then?


But that doesn't mean the M's could get anything of real value in return. The M's signed him as a free agent and so presumably they were the highest bidders. Therefore, not many teams viewed him as being worth $3.5 million in 2012, if any at all. He then had a really poor season last year so his value is likely even lower.
That means that even if the M's paid all of his salary, the best they could get would be a player worth 2 or 3 million dollars. That would either be a veteran bench player who was barely above replacement-level or an extremely fringy prospect (a Triple-A utility guy or reliever). That doesn't get the M's anywhere.
So for the reasons stated, Olivo is worth keeping around. If the M's want someone who is truly useful, they would have to trade someone like Vargas who has quite a bit of surplus value (at least $10 million worth even if the M's don't contribute any money).


But yeah.  It's not like you're going to get a Jose Campos back for Olivo under any circumstances.
Would definitely view Jason Vargas as the M's most substantial trade chip right now.  He's a reliable $10-12M worth of LHP performance making only $5M, so there have got to be teams that are a PERFECT match for that. 

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