I’ve spent the last few days watching Erik Bedard’s 2007 starts. They were pretty instructive as to how he works.
- Low-mid 90s fastball with some movement, spotted well.
- High 70s 11-5 curveball, sometimes has difficulty locating.
- Mid 80s straight change. Doesn’t do much.
He gets most of his called strikes with the fastball, working both corners, and he gets a fair amount of swinging strikes on it too. It’s easier to hit than the curve, but still an excellent pitch. He’s especially fond of the outside corner, and you don’t see him elevate the ball that often.
Virtually no called strikes with the curveball, and the catcher’s glove moves a lot trying to follow the pitch around. However, the thing is impossible to hit (I think Jeff Sullivan pointed out to me that there was 7x as many swinging strikes on Bedard’s curve than there were hits). He generally tries to go down and in to righties and low and away to lefties, but the curve has a habit of wandering all over.
The change seems like more of a show-me pitch than anything else. He doesn’t play around with it much when he’s on with the fastball and the curve.
The key to his transformation from pretty good pitcher to legit ace seems to come from a slight change in his curveball delivery. It was easier for batters to pick up before ’07, and therefore they could lay off it for a ball. Not so much this year. Watching batters go against it is amusing – they really don’t know what’s coming out of his hands, a fastball or a curve, and so they’ll swing at pitches in the dirt or, sitting curve, watch a fastball into the corner of the zone. His delivery on the curve has moved more in line with the fastball, which cuts down walks and boosts Ks (in essence because the bad guys are swinging at balls more often).
The best news about it? It’s sustainable. There’s really no reason I can see that Bedard can’t approximate this level of success over the next couple of years. The only worry I have is injury.
Bedard is awesome. Our rotation kicks ass. I may have issues with the trade from a longterm roster construction point of view, but there’s little doubt that we’re better off this year for it.
Incidentally, I have us at 88 wins right now. That won’t be enough, but hey. We were lucky last year, why not repeat it?
Thanks to The Sports Economist we have two great articles on stadium subsidies.
#1. The Atlanta school board is considering granting the area around Turner Field the status of Tax Allocation District. This is taking taxes AWAY FROM SCHOOLS and pumping them into the area around Turner Field to encourage growth.
As Skip Sauer pointed out, the stadium subsidy itself isn’t enough, more is needed. So first you build a $400m stadium, partly because that new stadium will encourage growth in that area and generate tax revenue. Unfortunately, it will only do so if you give even more money to the area, preferably money taken from the public schools.
My favorite quote is by economist Roger Noll
“Sports venues alone are just big black holes that have the ability to depress the neighborhoods in which they’re in.”
#2. Our very own Seattle Times published an article where it is alleged, “If the Sonics leave Seattle, the city’s economy won’t suffer and most people won’t care.” Obviously that was said by the Seattle City Council, right? Nope, that was said by the Sonics. Of course it was not too long ago they were arguing the opposite in the hope of a new publicly built arena.
“The financial issue is simple, and the city’s analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle’s many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave,” the Sonics said in the court brief.
I have some morbid curiosity with stadium dealings. I’d love to hear anybody explain why building stadiums is good for the economy, all they do is divert money from a variety of sources to the pockets of millionaires. It is a shame that these owners hold municipalities hostage. These are the same owners that turn public sentiment against the players while they rake in millions.
So, you thought they wouldn’t have me back, eh? Well, alas, after a one month layoff that’s seen it’s share of responsibilities, and other things, I thought I’d bless the blogosphere with something to read, and perhaps a little bit of what I do best: rant.
I hate counting stats. I hate when people use them. I hate seeing them on baseball cards, I hate seeing them on baseball telecasts, and I hate that they’re used to compare players on completely different teams, in different leagues, or from different eras.
So, why? Why do I hate counting stats? Well, here are a few reasons I’ve come up with. Feel free to add some reasons of your own in the comments section, as I’m quite certain I don’t have ALL the answers.
1. Counting stats leave no room for regression.
I suppose this is pretty obvious. Once you hit that 12th home run, you’re not going to regress to 11 again during that season. Pretty obvious. But how can you quantify the inevitable ups and downs of a baseball season in numbers that can’t regress, when a player’s performance certainly can? I don’t believe you can, and I defy anyone to convince me otherwise. Would you rather have Sammy Sosa with 10 bombs in April and none in May, or Barry Bonds with 5 in each month? As for me, I’m probably going to take the balanced effort (if you’re going to make me choose based on counting stats alone, that is…..).
2. Counting stats are an incredibly small sample size
It’s also true; if Justin Morneau hits 30 home runs next year, that’s likely to represent….oh about 4-5 percent of his plate appearances for the season. Why should I care about 5 percent of Justin Morneau’s plate appearances? How can this be considered a good measure of…..anything? Same goes for RBI…at best a player’s RBI total will represent 25 percent of a player’s plate appearances (I’m thinking a ‘fantastic’ total of 150 RBI (and in actuality, there isn’t a single player that pulls in a single RBI each time, so it’s probably closer to 20 percent) in 600 AB/PA, here). Still, how is 25 percent of anything to be considered a reasonable sample size?
More to come……but I thought I’d get off the schnide and make myself useful.
If you’re looking for solid blogs to read, check out http://www.sethspeaks.net and http://www.aarongleeman.com. If you’re looking to talk sports, check out the forums at prosportsdaily.com/forums and give me, brandonwarne52, a shout out!
Thanks everyone for reading!
I’ll bring the discussion that John Bai started on LL over to HR. The topic is Freely Available Talent (or Replacement Players) v. Average players.
A few thoughts:
1. Success is defined in wins and losses, not wins per dollar spent. The second is rigged in favor of teams that spend less money.
2. Superstars rarely hit the open market. When they do they can pick and choose where they want to do. Most of the time they don’t want to go to losing teams (A-Rod being the exception).
3. Freely available talent is freely available for a reason. Greg Dobbs is an excellent example of this. Dobbs actually had a decent season last year, but who saw that coming? Except for Pat Gillick. In order for the Mariners to get a shot at such a player, another team must first decide they are of little value.
4. Billy Beane is a savant. Just because he is exceptional at pulling rabits out of the hat, doesn’t mean that the average GM, can be expected to do this on a regular basis.
5. Freely available talent matters more to small budget teams. Teams like the A’s need to get more out of every dollar than do the Mariners in order to get the same win/loss record.
6. This is a seperate argument than the one about prospects getting major league time. Replacement level players are from the Rick Short pool of AAAA ballplayers. Club controlled guys don’t factor into the freely available pool.
I promise, besides the title and this sentence I am typing right now, Adam Jones will not appear in this post. Instead, I’ll take a brief sojourn into what adding Carlos Silva likely means for our 2008 outlook.
To start, we expect Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista to return in 2008. The other four guys to get a start last season were Ryan Feierabend, Cha Seung Baek, Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez. All told, they combined for 367.3 innings and 280 runs allowed. Holy batting practice batman, that’s horrendous. How horrendous? It’s 6.86 runs allowed per 9! Replacement level is usually determined to be something around 6 flat, which would have saved us 35 runs all by itself.
Carlos Silva’s last four runs allowed marks are 4.43, 3.97, 6.49 and 4.41. Boy 2006 sure sticks out huh? To get a quick and dirty projection for Silva for 2008, let’s just gaze at a few ways of using these numbers:
1) Straight average of past four seasons: 4.83 RA
2) 50-30-20 weighting over last 3 years: 4.95 RA
3) High and low regressed: 4.69 RA
Based on these, I’d be comfortable penning Silva for a 4.8 RA mark in 2008, were he to be pitching in MIN again. But he’s not, he’s changing parks, and importantly for Silva, changing defenses. Lets examine the park first. Using this article from Greg Rybarczyk we can see that one quirk that will help Silva is that SafeCo is a lot less friendly to yielding homeruns into the right-centerfield gap than the Metrodome.
And, from BBTF, we have these factors from 2003-5:
Team R H 2B HR BB SO Minnesota 1.06 1.02 1.04 0.98 0.96 1.12 Seattle 0.90 0.92 0.90 0.94 1.04 1.06
These show SafeCo as about 15% tougher run scoring environment over the period in question. Now, that doesn’t mean we want to apply a 15% reduction across the board. For one thing, other park factors, notably those at Baseball-Reference, show that scoring is roughly equal in MIN compared to SEA over the past three years. Since SEA’s defense is worse than MIN, (though the Mariners are getting better in that regard with the replacement of Jose Guillen by Ada–err, some new guy), lets just call park and defense a wash for the time being.
Carlos Silva is durable, averaging 193 innings a year over the past four seasons. Lucky for us, that’s about exactly half of the amount of innings taken up by the fearsome (to us) foursome. Let’s translate some of these into runs over a season to get an idea of how much we are improving.
2007: 6.86 RA * 193 innings = 147 runs allowed
Silva 2006: 6.49 RA * 193 innings = 139 runs allowed
Silva Med: 4.80 RA * 193 innings = 103 runs allowed
Silva 2007: 4.41 RA * 193 innings = 95 runs allowed
So we’re looking at around a 40-50 run improvement if Silva stays healthy and manages not to repeat 2006.
For what it’s worth, if we nabbed Erik Bedard and he took over the remaining 175 innings left from the Hindenburg-like foursome above, and notched a (conservative estimate) 4.0 runs allowed mark, he would net us another 55 runs. If he did something insane like repeating 2007, it would jump to 70 runs.
The opinion has been expressed by some people, notably Geoff Baker, that Brandon Morrow is more valuable to Adam Jones. It is my belief that this statement is false. I think the premise that people who are of this opinion operate under is that Brandon Morrow was successful in relief last year basically right out of college and this portends great things for his future as a starter. I do not buy this.
First off, Morrow was not “very successful” in relief last year. Let us get establish this right away. Morrow may have struck out 66 batters in 63.3 innings, a very good rate, but he also walked 50, a very very poor rate. Morrow did do a commendable job limiting homeruns, but we also only have a small sample on that, so we cannot be sure if this is a repeatable rate or a fluke. Morrow’s low groundball percentage (35.2%) indicates it’s more likely a fluke, though one he could sustain somewhat if he stayed in the bullpen as relievers HR/FB rates are almost always lower than that of their starting brethren.
All told, Morrow had a 4.12 ERA and a 4.09 FIP in 2007. Those aren’t bad numbers by any stretch, but they are not spectacular either. I bet a lot of people are suffering from first impression syndrome. Morrow’s first 20 games at the big league level resulted in a 2-0 record, 22.2 innings pitched and a sparkling 1.59 ERA. Problem is, even then his walks were a huge problem; he had 19 over those first 22.2 innings.
The more pertinent question is: what is Morrow’s future? For that, there’s three separate paths to consider.
PATH ONE: Morrow Stays in the Bullpen
This is basically stasis. Present Morrow stays at 2007 Morrow level, with perhaps a touch of experienced-related improvement, and Future Morrow’s whole development curve is flattened down to whatever improvement Morrow can find while pitching sporadically out of the bullpen in high leverage innings. In effect, very little can be done here. Future Morrow’s value tops out as a very good relief pitcher (nothing to sneeze at in today’s markets) and Present Morrow stays the same as 2007 Morrow, so not much improvement there to the 2008 squad.
PATH TWO: Morrow Learns to Start in Seattle
This would almost certainly be disastrous in the short-term, and likely long-term. Dave Cameron at USS Mariner wrote a post just today outlining Morrow’s deficiencies as a starting pitcher. It is important to hammer home one of Cameron’s main points; starting is vastly different from relieving. I’ll leave it up to the reader to go over to Cameron’s post for a more thorough understanding of why, but if you do not accept that premise then you might as well leave this site, head over to Baker’s blog and join in on the commenting fun there where you can be around people that think like you do.
All in all, Morrow as a starting pitcher in 2008 is going to be bad, like Jeff Weaver bad. So that is not going to net us any improvement. It also begs the question of what struggling this much will do to Morrow’s development as a starter. He needs to be developing offspeed pitches and command in order to reach his full potential, but if his offspeed stuff and slower fastball are getting shelled in the big league rotation, he might resort back to throwing pure gas as long as he can, burning out around 75 pitches but at least being somewhat more effective at getting outs. Problem is, that leaves Future Morrow in the same position as Present Morrow; worthless to the Mariners as a starting pitcher.
PATH THREE: Morrow Learns to Start in Tacoma
He gets a chance to work on all the things he needs to: better command, and improving his offspeed offerings, away from the pressures of attaining good results all the time. This is the best option for Future Morrow, but obviously reduces the value of Present Morrow to 0.
What we end up with is no rational way to expect Brandon Morrow to provide more value in 2008 than he did in 2007 and his future value added is directly tied to him being able to start games somewhere, be it Tacoma, Seattle or Baltimore. Brandon Morrow will not learn how to start by pitching out of the bullpen. The preceding sentence needs something stronger than bold to emphasize it enough. The pitchers that are able to make successful transitions from the pen to the rotation (e.g. Liriano, Santana, Pineiro when he was on the juice) all had massive amounts of experience starting in the minors. Brandon Morrow has none. That’s the key point to remember. It’s so important I am giving it its own paragraph like a newspaper sports writer would.
Brandon Morrow has practically no experience being a starting pitcher.
The only way Brandon Morrow provides significant future value is if he goes back to the minors and works his way back up as a starting pitcher. And that is not going to happen under this regime. Morrow is staying on the active roster come hell or tradewater. That is precisely why Morrow is expendable in the pursuit of Erik Bedard.
If we acquired Bedard, our rotation (Felix, Wash, Batista, Silva, Bedard) would be set for 2008-9. So you’d be keeping Morrow in the pen until 2010. By that point, Morrow has 3 years of service time and still has zero starting experience. The idea that he’ll make a flawless transition to the rotation is retarded no matter if it’s 2008, 2010 or 2015. You can almost surely chalk up 2010 to growing pains, meaning, if everything breaks right you get Morrow as a good starting pitcher for 2011-2 before he hits free agency. Two years. The same two years you get out of Bedard right now.
I have covered Jones’ value in a previous post, but to reiterate, Adam Jones provides an immediate value to the 2008 Mariners (mostly in the form of his defense) and is under club control for six seasons. Removing Adam Jones from the picture means we are certainly doomed to Raul Ibanez’s continued existence in left field and we also have to either use Wladimir Balentien in right field or go find a free agent. This is a tremendous hit to our outfield defense for 2008. (In fact, Bavasi should be looking at a free agent outfielder anyways [Kenny Lofton FTW!] to put over in left field so that we can move Raul’s decaying husk off the field entirely.)
Adam Jones is as essential to our 2008 squad as Jarrod Washburn. Brandon Morrow is as essential to our 2008 squad as Sean Green. Tell Baltimore they can Morrow (and Wlad and Chen and Saunders and Butler and Feierabend and Tui), but they cannot have Jones under any circumstance.
So, as I am sure is common knowledge at this point, the Mariners are signing Carlos Silva to a 4yr, 48m deal, and the Phillies signed Geoff Jenkins to a 2yr, 13m deal.
Let’s start with Silva. Silva projects by Bill James, Zips and some DIPS formula I have on my computer to be a guy with an ERA in the upper 4’s. He really is just not that good. His K:BB last year was 3.91:1.6, a lot of balls in play. The M’s defense was second worst in the AL last year (as measured by DER) and hasn’t really upgraded a ton. There is Adam Jones in left but older and presumably worse versions of Ibanez and Sexson to take away some of that improvement. The point of bringing up defense is that as USSM pointed out, he really isn’t a good fit for the Mariners. The park isn’t going to help him, the division isn’t going to help him, and the Seattle defense isn’t going to help him. If you’re going to sign below average pitchers, at least have some reason to believe (as with Washburn) that they might become average.
As I said, projections have Silva at an upper 4 ERA. A guy named Chone who writes a blog for the Angels has released some Minor League Equivalencies. Chone has a projection system that is up there with the rest and is a decently respected guy, so these equivalencies are probably pretty close to what any other MLE report will give you. These are the guys the Mariners have in their system that project to have an ERA under 5 based on last years Minor League stats:
R.A. Dickey 5.06 (I don’t even know what is up with that number being so high)
Jorge Campillo 4.01
Ryan Rowland-Smith 4.05 (as a reliever)
Justin Lehr 4.43
Robert Rohrbaugh 4.80
Ryan Feierabend 5.00
These aren’t to be taken as a declaration that Jorge Campillo is going to have a 4.01 era in the show next year. The goal is to show that between these 6 guys, one of them could have an ERA that is close to or even better than Carlos Silva. These guys are free; Silva is going to be taking in 12m a year. Why must this franchise so ardently resist youth? I don’t know the scouting reports on all these guys and I’m sure there are logical reasons to rule out one or two, but come on, give the kids a shot.
Geoff Jenkins annoys me, but I never got my hopes up to begin with. To start off with, as far as I know the M’s never said they were looking to upgrade their LF. Basically a guy on a blog said “get Geoff Jenkins and move Ibanez to first” and we all agreed it made sense. For whatever reason they were clearly dedicated to Ibanez in left so I really don’t think this was ever going to be a potential solution and we all should have known he wasn’t coming here. He would have been an upgrade. His offense is merely average, but he would have set off a great chain. Getting Ibanez out of left, getting Sexson off of first, and the slight improvement between Jenkins and Sexson/Vidro (whoever we could get rid of) would have probably netted a couple of wins.
Both of these indicate organizational philosophies that sadly are not likely to be corrected as long as the present regime is in charge of the club. Silva obviously doesn’t make sense. He is a below average pitcher who is really not helped at all by Safeco and spectacularly more expensive than any number of options (I listed in house guys, Lookout Landing has a guy, there are probably more out there that are cheap and as good as Silva). Brent astutely said a while back that free agency is paying for what you cannot develop, and the M’s are paying.
Jenkins made so much sense. He was cheap, born in Olympia, clearly an upgrade at multiple positions. The organization though decided that Ibanez wants to play left, so he gets to, regardless of if it hurts the team. The franchise overlooks potential improvements for the massive value it apparently finds in known commodities. It’s been a frustrating off-season.
With news that Silva is heading to the Mariners and the rumors of Jenkins to the Phillies, it only seems appropriate to discuss the consequences of failure. These signings cannot be viewed without looking at the recent histories of both franchises.
Seattle has not made the playoffs since 2001 and they haven’t made a big deadline deal to improve the team since 1997. All of this comes while being one of the most profitable franchises in all of baseball. Seattle won’t become a destination for players hoping to make the playoffs until they start making the playoffs. Seattle is a remote outpost and when the club isn’t winning things like the lack of national attention and
Philadelphia has only made the playoffs twice since 1993 but one of those two appearances was last year. Making the playoffs in recent history is very attractive to players at the end of their careers hoping to help a contender. Philly is an east coast market and
So what comes first: solid free agent signings or the playoffs? Success leads to more success and failure leads to more failure. For every player who is only concerned with getting every last dollar out of the free agent market, there are more players who are concerned with other things than money. Let’s examine these two contracts.
Carlos Silva probably signed with the team that offered him the most money (as Washburn did). Occasionally teams make players offers that are so good financially that they cannot refuse them. The Yankees, for example, use money of overcome most objections that players have to wearing the pinstripes.
But money doesn’t grow on trees and can’t buy you everything. $1 of Philly money has more value than $1 of Mariner money. Don’t believe for a second that a 2 year 13 million would have gotten it done with Jenkins. He’s never made the playoffs and two years with Philly gives him a chance at making it to the World Series before he retires. Father time isn’t going to be kind to Geoff so this is his last shot at being a starter on a playoff caliber team. Is Seattle making the playoffs in the next two years?
The blog-o-sphere can’t demand that the Mariners build for the future while at the same time insisting they sign players to bargain contracts. The sales pitch for teams trying to acquire players like Geoff Jenkins takes place in the months of September and October. Win and these players will be happy to come to Seattle. Lose and they will go somewhere else.
Also posted at Prospect Insider
I received a copy of John McLaren’s interview (thanks Jason) with the press at the winter meetings. McLaren takes a lot of guff from the fans here in Seattle and without a doubt this interview will give plenty of ammo to those who aren’t fans of Mac.
The first piece of information that can be pounced on was a response to question on Jose Lopez:
“I’m a Jose Lopez Fan. A few things got turned sideways for him last year. We just want him to play with passion every night. He’s got good ability. The rap on him was his defense, and I think he was one of the top defenders at 2nd base fielding percentage-wise, and we were very happy these and we just want to maximize his concentration at the plate and it the field to make him the best player he can be, which is going to make us a better team. That’s the only thing I am going to convey to him.”
So McLaren has cited passion and fielding percentage in the same paragraph, awesome. Taken at face value, these comments are horrible. In his defense, McLaren isn’t the kind of guy who is going to call out any of his players out by name. The sin here is not citing fielding percentage, but being too nice to play in a high stakes game.
On running more next season:
I think Betancourt has got the capabilities of being a 20-plus stolen base guy, and I know Adam Jones does too. I know with Ichiro and – I’m going to see if we can get more stolen bases. We had a pretty good percent last year, 81 and 30. We need to get up in the 120’s. Anaheim has more speed than us, we need to utilize our speed more.
McLaren goes on to say that Ichiro could steal 80 bases next year. If the fantasy baseball league you participate in is a 5×5 that uses steals, it might be a good idea to look into someone like Yuni Betancourt for a cheap source of steals. These comments are troubling because unlike many other statements by the skipper this one is lacks qualification. It would have been appropriate to say that he doesn’t want the team being crazy on the base paths but wants them to take the extra base. This also is a clue that McLaren will select a bench with plenty of guys who can steal a base late in the game. Expect the Mariners stolen base totals to spike in 2008 but the percentage to drop. This is not a net gain.
On a Richie Sexson bounce back:
We need him because losing some offense with Guillen and with Adam in rightfield, Richie comes back to being Richie, it takes a lot of pressure off Adam, and it helps us out a lot. And Richie has got something you can’t teach. That’s the power and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. It would be a good sign, seeing him do that again.
John McLaren is a positive guy, but this was not a positive statement. If Richie Sexson returns to the 40 HR range that McLaren says he can, this is a huge opportunity for the team to get better. I don’t believe for a second that McLaren believes in his heart of hearts that Richie is due for a huge improvement.
On Swinging at Strikes:
You know what? We’re going to stress for the first day for Spring Training just to work the count. You know, I mean, I’m not big into taking pitches and all this, that and the other. I want to get into hitters counts and take advantage of it. If you look at some of the hitters stats on like a 2-0 count, (a) couple of them are pretty ugly. These should be hitter’s counts and they should be hitting for a higher batting average. 300 plus in a hitters count because it should be the pitch you are looking for.
Even though the walk is not invoked, it’s hard to find fault in a message of “wait for your pitch and hit it”. These statements were the most encouraging in the entire interview.
Mariner fans should forgive Johnny Mac for not being a Hall of Fame manager. This guy isn’t going to win the Mariners a bunch of games by playing hunches correctly for an entire season. His in-game strategy isn’t going to earn him 5 minute segments on Baseball Tonight to breaking down his “genius”. What McLaren will probably favor is speed and versatility on his bench. Also, lots of aggressive base running which will make the Mariners exciting to watch, but won’t translate into many wins (and probably a few more losses).