The Balancing Act - Safeco Dept.


=== Whither Pineda and Doogie? ===

Can depth overcome marquee power?  Sure, the same logic applies on the mound.  If you don't have multiple aces, you can certainly accomplish the same thing if you can -- and it's a big IF here -- have the best 4-thru-9 pitchers in the league.

All M's fans, by which I mean "Dr. D and G-Moneyball," have been fretting about the -3.5 WAR each that were subtracted when Zduriencik shed our second and third aces.

It's true that you're asking a lot, if you're asking James Paxton and Hector Noesi to rack up 3.5 WAR apiece.  But the thing is, they don't have to.  The 2011 M's did have three excellent SP's, but they blew a lot of that out the tailpipe in billows of blue oil-burn smoke.  Here are a few of the worst offenders:

Vazquez 8.90 -1.6
Furbush 6.62 -0.8
Lueke 6.06 -0.4
Ray 4.68 -0.1
Gray 4.89 +0.1

In fact the M's burned 300 innings on the above guys plus Laffey, Cortes, various and sundry pitchers from whom they got a collective -2 WAR.

And this isn't at all necessary:  the Texas Rangers, who did not spend a lot of money on pitching, gave only about 80 innings to lousy pitchers.  The Mariners' Big Three was easily as good as Texas', but the Rangers fielded another 7-8 quality pitchers after the Big Three.

Last year's Mariners had a great Big Three, but their team ERA+ was only 99.  With the huge flotilla of arms they have sailing in, anchored by Felix Hernandez, their target should be much higher than 99.


=== 2001 Mariners ===

The 116-win Mariners led the league in ERA, sporting a jaunty 118 ERA+.  But they didn't have a lot of WAR to back it up:

Garcia 4.0
Moyer 3.0
Sele 2.4
(Rhodes) 2.4
Jo-El 1.5
Abbott 0.9
(Nelson) 1.3


(Charlton) 0.5

In other words, you don't need Felix, Pineda, and Doogie at the front of the rotatio, before you start thinking about a run at a 118 ERA+.  You can improve the #4-9 pitchers and accomplish the same things.

(Alert readers will go, wait, the 2001 M's had a great defensive efficiency rating.  True, but even after you remove the M's 9.9 defensive WAR they still won 106 games.)

Check the above table:  the Big Three had 9.4 WAR and the starting five pitchers had about 12.0.  Could the 2012 Mariners match that?  Sure:  the following rotation would equal the 2001 Mariners in WAR:

Felix 6.5
Vargas 2.5
Noesi 2.5
Iwakuma or Millwood 2.0
Paxton, Hultzen or Millwood 2.0
Total 15.0
2001 Mariners, they of the 118 ERA+ 12.0

You get the idea.  Now that Pineda, and, um, Prince Fielder are gone, the Mariners have a bit different of a dice roll to throw.  They need their #4-9 pitchers, and their #4-9 hitters, to win games for them.  



Taro will like the radar gun reading on the scoreboard, we're guessing ... can hardly wait for the NL games, with a 3 hitter like that one ...


=== Nobody Remembers in August if You Won A Game In March, Dept. ===

I don't know what Earl's Fourth Law has to do with anything, but .... in all the excitement about PAXTON AND HULTZEN AREN'T COMING NORTH, YOU IDIOT!!, have we forgotten that even if not, they'll still be part of the 2012 club? 

Jack's got blue-chip prospects running the field like roaches.  They'll need to play well if this team is going anywhere.







We need Carp and Guti and Wells and Jaso to carry their weight.  Ackley/Smoak/Montero are not dragging this lineup into contention by themselves.
And our bullpen HAS to be better than that awkward junk we were running out there for much of last year.
If we're agile with our rotation we should be able to keep the starting 5 rolling.  After Felix, Vargas and Iwakuma we've got the following arms competing for the last two slots over the course of the year:  Millwood, Noesi, Beavan, Furbush, Erasmo, Carraway, Hultzen and Paxton.
We can ABSOLUTELY pull an early 2000s Oakland and spend the first 2 months figuring out our optimal arm deployment and the last 4 months whooping on people.
But the bullpen needs to protect leads.  We need Wilhelmsen and League to bring it.    Sherrill and Kelley being healthy and effective would be enormous for us, and Ruffin + whomever can't be weak links.
Everything doesn't have to go right from the outset, but we're gonna need to make quick, correct assessments from Spring Training forward.  Prescient calls like "Pineda is ready out of Spring Training" will be at least as necessary this year.
Like you said, there's talent scurrying around the 40 man in all directions.  Choosing the right 25 to do battle with is crucial for our hopes this year.
Luckily if we get it wrong, that talent (plus more) should be available next year.  We're on the rise.  It's just a matter of whether this is the year we rise up.
Since I'm tired of being treated to borderline-unwatchable offense, I'm certainly hoping so.
February first. 18 days til pitchers and catchers report.  Hurry up already!


I agree, that might be Goodbye Seager.
I’ve been expecting him to get traded all winter, which kinda sucks because I like him.  But his best position is 2B and he’ll never play that for us (unless Ackley somehow needs to move to CF because everyone else we try there fails miserably).  If we don't think Seager can play 3rd long-term, then he's definitely a candidate to be moved.
Who needs a 2B?
Off the top of my head:
St. Louis (pretty sure they’re still running Schumaker out there), but they also have Wong, their first rounder, and he’s probably just a couple years away.
Reds have Brandon Phillips but his contract is up after this year, and Hamilton’s a baby.  Rodriguez has potential though.
Cubs if Barney doesn’t have their confidence.  They don’t have many other internal options the last time I looked em over.
White Sox are having a fire sale, so Seager might be part of a package to get Quentin.  Beckham has been a HUGE disappointment.
We can find a trade partner for a 2B, but I dunno what Seager’s perceived value is.  I would think it would be more of a package deal like the Quentin thing.
But whether he stays or goes, Guillen isn’t a bad add.  We needed a vet hitter for the clubhouse, IMO.  Guillen certainly counts, if he can make the team.

ghost's picture

I don't think Guillen is taking Seager's "starting" spot at third...he could, however, take Kawasaki out of the UTL IF slot on our bench. Say we assume that we carry just Olivo and Montero for the catching with Jaso waiting in AAA...our line-up of Ichiro/Seager/Ackley/Montero/Smoak/Carp/Wells/Gutierrez/Ryan could be flanked by a bench of Olivo/Guillen/Figgins/Robinson or something like that. That team is fairly deep and there is cover for all of the positions.


We need Carp and Guti and Wells and Jaso to carry their weight.  Ackley/Smoak/Montero are not dragging this lineup into contention by themselves.

I think that's the Big Idea for 2012 M's fans who would like to root for some baseball wins, thank you very much.  You compare Ackley, Smoak, and Montero to the Rangers' best three hitters and you're depressed.  But once you think in terms of the #7 hitter carrying a 99 OPS+ you've got another subject.


Everything doesn't have to go right from the outset, but we're gonna need to make quick, correct assessments from Spring Training forward.  Prescient calls like "Pineda is ready out of Spring Training" will be at least as necessary this year.

The M's truly have a Billy Beane situation this year, trim-the-flaps while in flight. ... you pretty confident in them to do that?  They picked out Doogie, Wilhelmsen, Vargas etc.  Maybe not so much in the lineup.
Your Pineda remark is why, if I'm Jay-Z, I'm thinking Paxton and Hultzen as soon as possible.  Those are the two marquee talents who could, in theory, provide a Hansen Brothers factor in 2012.  
This past week he mentioned, as a possibility, their coming north out of ST again.


In the interview transcribed by Stone, was it?
... Carlos will be a welcome sight :- ) and, if healthy, he would PROBABLY fill the Adam Kennedy role offensively.
If Carlos' signing meant that the M's were on the brink of a Seager+ blockbuster, that would be exciting.  Guillen is pretty fragile to bridge for Liddi for any length of time, but ...


It is funny, because Zduriencik was just quoted along the lines of preferring defense at backup infield.  Replacing Kawasaki's glove with Guillen's bat would be the inverse of that.
But Z has always been open-minded about his paradigms ... never mind the Ackley switch; consider the change from Kotchman and Chavez to Smoak and Carp ... you gotta love a guy who is agile in his thinking.


But will be in the lineup almost every day.
Wedge has been making that clear.  I think that means Jaso or Gimenez gets a bench spot.  Probably Jaso.  Also makes Carp the starting LF.
Under the current configuration that leaves 3 bench spots:
--Figgins or Guillen
--Wells or Robinson
--Kawasaki or L-Rod (Guillen is no longer a SS -- hasn't played since 2007)
Going in, they'll prefer Figgins because they want him to be the 5th OF.
But, if they were to trade Seager, they'd have spots for both Guillen and Figgins and they could share 3b as an easily-replacable stopgap.
Unless I'm missing something.


You musta also seen Wedge's comment that "Carp looked better the more he was out there" ...
Also Casper Wells seems to be, right now, solidly #4 for PT in the OF.
Spec, I unnerstand you right, you've got Jaso as this year's adopt-a-player?  :- )  Could pan out big.


Uh...Don't trade him.
You're unlikely to get a real contributing cheap arm for him, and we have young arms up the wazzu.
Figgins?  Please peddle him.
Wells should be the CF against RHP.  Guti is a complete dud against RHP, always was.
Guti should be OF #4.
Guillen better cream the ball in ST, otherwise just thank him for the ingterest.


The only thing you can count on with Guillen is that he will get hurt. There is no way that he would be viewed as a full time player, let alone as making Seager expendable. Dr. D is right that this is just like adding Adam Kennedy to be a veteran, lefty bench player for a single season. You would not give up 5-years of Seager for that.


>>You compare Ackley, Smoak, and Montero to the Rangers' best three hitters and you're depressed
Hmmm.  Who were the Rangers' 3 best hitters in 2010 when they went to the WS for the first time?  I'd say ... Hamilton (170), Cruz (146) and Kinsler (110).  By WAR, they were 7.0; 4.3; 3.7 in 2010.  So, the question I have is ... exactly how scary were those three hitters in 2009?
Hamilton - 90 OPS+ in 365 PAs
Cruz -- 117 OPS+ in 515 PAs
Kinsler -- 107 OPS+ in 640 PAs
How do Smoak, Ackley and Montero in 2011 compare to the Texas' "murderer's row" that carried the club to its first ever WS the year before they went?
Ackley -- 117 in 376 PAs
Smoak -- 104 in 489 PAs
Montero -- 159 in 69 PAs
That said ... I completely agree that the key for the Ms is at the low end, not the high end.  The question about winning will be driven by how many of the top 11 hitters have an OPS+ below 85.  If the number is above 2, the Ms chances are slim.  Don't belive me?  Go sort the Giants' WS team (the one with the 98 team OPS+), by PAs and then count the number of hitters in that top 11 with an OPS+ below 85.


Figgins has played exactly 8 innings in the OF over the last 4 years (although in '06 he played nearly 1000 innings there).  I'm not buying the idea that he is kept because he's the only guy who can be an emergency OF.
Give Seager an OF glove for a few games in ST.  He can shag a few flies in an emergency.  Ditto Liddi.  I seem to remember Ackley being a pretty good OF at one time.
Kawasaki can't play a few innings in the OF?  In '09, Guillen played 322 innings in the OF.  Played 28 there in '10. .


We're all very aware of the value of the comments index, but we'd run into some performance issues, page load times and so forth, and the crack Black Ops team is on it :- )
Thanks for axing, DaddyO -


Thanks. Yeah, it does seem to adversely affect load times. However things go, thanks for this site, the content, the tone and the eddycation (a little Jed Clampett-ism) it provides.

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