Saturday, October 23, 2004

Something I ran across while browsing the Inside Edge Advance Scouting website (the company who put together the scouting reports I linked below):

Two testimonials.

"Those guys are the best. Teams that use them love them.”

-Bill Bavasi

“Inside Edge scouting reports give me accurate, up-to-date information on opposing batters. That’s the edge every Major League pitcher wants to take into a game. I have told the Mariners how valuable Inside Edge has been to me.”

-Shigetosi Hasagawa

Those scouting reports clearly provided a distinct advantage for those who used them.
This might be the most in-depth scouting report I've seen in my life.

I don't know what else to say. (Thanks to Will Carroll for the link.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

In light of the most recent post, I'd like to take you back several months to something that caught my attention in March: Would you vote to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame?

Lincoln: Well, I don't have a vote. Let's just say that I don't like people that lie, and leave it at that.
Fuzzy Math, Revisited:

That dreadful term, "budget constraints", has already been tossed around by a few sources with regards to the Mariners' '04/'05 offseason plan. Howard Lincoln has said that the team's going to take a financial hit next year, and that he's willing to accept that in order to build a competitive team, but he's just flapping his lips - the team is in no danger of losing money in 2005.

With the help of the late Doug Pappas and the unexpectedly-extraordinarily-useful Forbes MLB Valuations, I decided to take a look at just how the Mariners have been taking in and allocating their money, as compared to the league.

All raw numbers are in millions. Time to explain the categories:

  • Revenue and Operating Income values are taken from Forbes' data collection. The latter refers to, in their words, "earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization."

  • 2003 and 2004 Opening Day payrolls include ~$7.6m to cover health and pension benefits, medical costs, worker's comp, etc. This value fluctuates by a few thousand dollars each year, which we may consider to be negligible.

  • "Diff.Payroll" refers to the difference between the 2004 and 2003 team payrolls. A positive value means the team spent more on the roster, while a negative value means that the team slashed its budget.

  • "Diff.Exp.Payroll" refers to the difference between the team's 2004 payroll and where we could expect it to be based on its 2003 payroll and operating income. This is a very rough approximation, but it suggests to what extent a team's ownership was willing to spend money in order to build a more competitive team.

  • "%Payroll/REV" is another rough estimate of how much the team spent on its roster, relative to how much money it brought in the previous year.

In 2002, the Mariners were in the upper quarter in the league in terms of making money, and this translated into the seventh-highest payroll and a near miss of the playoffs. Still, the team made more money in 2003 than they did the previous year, so what did the ownership do?

That's right, slash payroll by 6%. Despite making more than all but two teams in baseball, Seattle's 2004 Opening Day payroll was tenth in the league, behind such organizations as Philadelphia and San Francisco. In 2003, the Mariners had the highest net earnings in baseball while the majority of other big-market teams lost money, yet they decided to cut payroll to a level that just barely qualifies them as an upper-third team.

Let's take a look at a related chart, showing team rankings:

Here, "%DiffEx/Payroll" refers to how much more money the team spent than expected, as a function of the organization's 2003 payroll. Essentially, it normalizes spending to the team context. For example, look at the Devil Rays: they spent $2.4m more this year than you'd think, given their 2004 payroll and 2003 payroll/operating income, while the Astros spent $6.1m. However, if you expect the team's 2003 payroll to be a ballpark approximation of how much ownership is willing to spend on the team, then Tampa Bay spent a greater percentage more money than Houston.

What do we find? The Mariners rank in the bottom third in all three categories, committing just over half of its revenue to the team and spending far less than they should be, considering their previous payroll and operating income. They've been making money at obscene rates each year and pumping less and less of it into roster construction. While to my knowledge Forbes hasn't published the 2004 numbers yet, if we assume that the Mariners had a similar operating income this year than they did in 2003 (a reasonable assumption, given that lower attendance was roughly negated by a lower payroll), then Lincoln could put $105-110m into the team while still breaking even. Of course, this ignores the team's Scrooge McDuck-like vault containing previous earnings, some of which could easily be added to the payroll without putting any of the owners out on the streets.

Look at the teams who put a lesser percentage of total revenue into the payroll this year:

  • Florida

  • Texas

  • Baltimore

  • Detroit

  • Cincinnati

  • Tampa Bay

  • Pittsburgh

  • Milwaukee

  • Cleveland

Several of these teams are, or expected to be, in a rebuilding stage, bracing for a lower revenue by cutting costs, along with putting together a roster of younger, more inexpensive players. Some of these teams added big-name free agents over the winter to a roster otherwise made up of cheap, inexperienced rookies or replacement-level talent. Only one of them could have entertained reasonable hopes of contending before the year started, and even the defending champs looked like a pretty average team, having lost a few key pieces during the offseason.

The point? The Mariners were a very good team in 2003 who made a lot of money, and who expected to compete again in 2004. Problem is, you have to spend money to win games. Take a look at how this year's playoff teams rank in terms of revenue put into the team:

  • Anaheim (2)

  • New York (3)

  • Boston (4)

  • Houston (6)

  • St. Louis (7)

  • Los Angeles (9)

  • Minnesota (11)

  • Atlanta (13)

Even the tiny-market Twins spent more of its revenue on the team than Seattle, this despite losing money in 2003. Another competitive small-market team, Oakland, ranked #14.

What's the lesson here - does spending as much money as you can guarantee success? Well, no, look no further than the Phillies - they missed the playoffs after pumping 88% of its 2003 revenue into the roster and upping the payroll despite losing a significant chunk of change last year. Spending doesn't ensure anything, but it gives you much greater odds of succeeding than stockpiling your riches and putting just enough money into the team to be able to claim that they remain big-market. The Mariners seem prepared to throw around a lot of cash this winter, but Lincoln & Co. have already begun their annual overtures on budget constraints and profit margin, so I implore you all to temper your expectations.
There is nothing like October baseball. Sure, April through September is fun, but the excitement that comes out of October baseball is unbelievable. Both championship series were a lot of fun to watch and the World Series should be entertaining as well, but I doubt it will reach the magnitude of last nights Red Sox win over the Yankees. If you are a superstitious person, has the curse been broken or is the ghost of the Babe just tugging at the heart strings of the Boston faithful? My prediction, Boston in 6.

Now to the Mariners and their new coach Mike Hargrove. The Seattle papers do a really good job in covering the hire and DMZ adds some good insights about Hargrove. The one thing that stuck out during the press conference and reading the articles was Grover’s confidence, something that many of us believe Melvin lacked. Grover definitely fills the role of a manager with experience that Bavasi was seeking and also brings with him an ideology he calls Groverball, a mix of statistical analysis and scouting practices. Hargrove is expected to start putting together his staff soon, with Bryan Price the first person he wants to talk with. The more I read about and listen to Hargrove, the more I like the hiring. Now for the M’s to focus their attention on free agents and trade targets.

The current Mariner roster is expected to undergo one of the largest face lifts in team history this off-season. Bavasi figures to be active on both the trade and free agent front, as he tries to turn the line-up into the more athletic and tools oriented roster he prefers. Players who could be dealt this off-season include anyone not named Ichiro, but this is another post for another day. This should be an interesting off-season to say that absolute least and one Wednesday, it started off on a good note. Let’s just hope this carries over into spring training.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

You may remember this post on Jeremy Reed that I put up a little over a month ago. In the introduction I cited a Nate Silver article that evaluated 2004 Minor League performances based on PECOTA expecations. Players were split up into six groups:

  • Dramatically Exceeded Expectations (90th percentile or better)

  • Markedly Exceeded Expectations (75th percentile through 90th percentile)

  • Exceeded Expectations (60th percentile through 75th percentile)

  • Met Expectations (40th percentile through 60th percentile)

  • Underperformed Expectations (25th percentile through 40th percentile)

  • Markedly Underperformed Expectations (25th percentile or worse)

In the absence of any other relevant Mariners news, let's take a look at just who did and didn't hold up their ends of the bargain this season:

Dramatically Exceeded Expectations:
-Freddy Garcia
-Bobby Madritsch
Markedly Exceeded Expectations:
-Ron Villone
-Bucky Jacobsen
-Justin Leone
Exceeded Expectations:
-Matt Thornton
-Ryan Franklin
-Raul Ibanez
Met Expectations:
-Eddie Guardado
-Mike Myers
-Gil Meche
-Shigetoshi Hasegawa
-Randy Winn
-Jolbert Cabrera
-Willie Bloomquist
-Jose Lopez
Underperformed Expectations:
-Joel Pineiro
-Julio Mateo
-Jamie Moyer
-Cha Baek
-Dan Wilson
-Miguel Olivo
Markedly Underperformed Expectations:
-Clint Nageotte
-Kevin Jarvis
-Travis Blackley
-Bret Boone
-Edgar Martinez
-Scott Spiezio
-John Olerud
-Rich Aurilia
-JJ Putz (no projection)
-Scott Atchison (no projection)
-George Sherrill (no projection)
-Rafael Soriano (I don't have the heart to put him in another category)

*-minimum 100 AB or 10 IP

Look at that again - five Opening Day starting position players and two members of the starting rotation performed well below expectations. Ryan Franklin and Ron Villone only qualify as overachievers because they threw more innings than PECOTA thought they would.

I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating that, hypothetically, if we were to add Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre, this team would likely be nothing more than a fringe contender. Bill Bavasi may make a few splashes this winter as a "Stars & Scrubs" general manager, but that doesn't mean anything if the rest of the team is as bad as it was in 2004.

Have a nice NLCS.
And so we bid farewell to perhaps the greatest playoff series of our lifetimes.

Congratulations to the Red Sox for an improbable comeback, and I can't say I feel bad for the Yankees after they managed to pull off arguably the biggest choke in the history of professional sports. David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling, and Derek Lowe have become instant heroes in a city longing for someone to cling to.

I've gotta say, I never thought I'd hear a "Let's Go Red Sox" chant at The Stadium, nevermind the reverse "Who's Your Daddy?" chants following the conclusion.

And I hope that no one forgets about that other league, which has its own Game 7 tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It's official, the Mariners have named Mike Hargrove as the new manager of the Seattle Mariners and gave him a three year contract.

Hopefully, this is a sign of change in the Mariners FO philosophy.
It's Hargrove.

The team hasn't made an official announcement, requiring permission from Bud Selig to do so, but the decision has been made.

The offseason is off to a pretty good start.
Absolutely unbelievable.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

At 0-for-3 so far tonight, Derek Jeter is hitting a robust .227/.333/.341 in the playoffs, and is at .160 in the ALCS. The guy's clutch.

Oh, and Curt Schilling = Kerri Strug.
This morning, I checked out a clip of Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. Now, I'd like to acknowledge up front that I rarely, if ever involve myself in political discussion.

This will be no exception.

The managerial race has evidently come down to Grady Little vs. Mike Hargrove, so what better way to evaluate the candidates than by putting together a pros & cons list for each party?

Grady Little:

  • Popular players' manager type, who helped keep a diverse group of Red Sox from getting out of line

  • Guided good teams to 188 wins over two seasons and owns the fourth-best managerial winning percentage in Red Sox history

  • Has postseason experience

  • Has 18 years of general managerial experience

  • Has dealt with individual players getting "star treatment", which could make a difference should the front office make a big splash

  • Has experience with closer-by-committee situation (and he eventually made the proper selections, given the available choices)

  • Isn't Don Baylor or Jimy Williams


  • Indecisiveness, tied to an over-reliance on letting the players make tough decisions

  • Over two seasons, his teams finished six games below their expected (Pythagorean) records

  • Fascinated with suboptimal lineup construction, such as slotting the worst OBP's near the top of the order

  • Has very limited experience with young pitchers

Other Facts

  • His teams finished 11th and 12th in sacrifice bunts

  • Is moderately aggressive on the basepaths when he has the right tools

Mike Hargrove:

  • Has 13 years of Major League managerial experience

  • Has led two teams to the World Series, and made the playoffs each year from 1995-1999 (Cleveland also was in position to win the Wild Card in '94)

  • Spent 2000-2003 managing a team in a similar position as the current Mariners, an organization with a lot of money, a bunch of declining veterans, and some rookies trying to get themselves some playing time

  • Was ten games over his expected W/L record for his career - +20 with Cleveland, suggesting that he might be a better in-game tactician when he's managing a competitive team

  • Also has experience with a closer-by-committee

  • Has spent the last handful of seasons working with relatively young pitching rotations

  • Was a patient, analytical hitter in his day (probably doesn't mean anything, but worth a mention)

  • Worked with a smart Indians organization in 2004

  • Quotable!

  • Isn't Don Baylor or Jimy Williams


  • His recent teams have performed below expectations

  • Has been called out on several occasions for being too uninvolved in Baltimore (related to the first point, in that Hargrove may lose interest in managing a bad team)

  • Has a history of abusing young starters - specifically Bartolo Colon and Jaret Wright in Cleveland and Sidney Ponson in Baltimore

  • Typically favors veterans over younger players, demanding that rookies produce immediately in order to crack the lineup

Other Facts

  • Enjoys to bunt

  • Also loves attempting to steal bases

  • Routinely among the league leaders in one-batter appearances by his pitchers

In the end, neither candidate comes off looking particularly good or bad. I'm especially concerned with how our young pitchers will be handled, in the wake of Bob Melvin's abuse, but I'm confident that things aren't going to get worse.

My personal preference is for Hargrove, as he's recently spent some time in a good organization, and also has experience with teams similar to the late Mariners. Still, hiring Little wouldn't be a tremendous disappointment.
It would appear that my Joe Maddon speculation was wrong (and that he was never a serious candidate to begin with).

Mike Hargrove and Grady Little look like the two finalists for the job. More on this later.
There has been next to no new Mariner news over the past week, but thankfully, this might have been one of the best sports weekends in a long while.

David Ortiz is a monster. Period. Cut and dry. (Insert cliche here). After blasting a two run homer run earlier this morning to give the Red Sox a win, he knocks in the winning run again tonight, sending the series back to NY. Tomorrow night features Schilling vs. Lieber. Varitek's legs vs. Posada's legs. Manny's defense vs. Sheffield's defense.

Carlos Beltran isn't playing baseball. Carlos Beltran is showcasing himself in front of millions ensuring that he signs a contract of at least $15 million per season before the year ends. Brandon Backe threw an 8 inning one hit shutout and Jeff Kent hit a three run HR in the ninth that gave the Astros a one game series lead. Clemens is expected to get the ball on three days rest on Wednesday.

As if the horrendous Mariner season wasn't enough, my Tampa Bay Bucs lost to the St. Louis Rams tonight, pushing their record to 1-5. You know things are bad when you have to turn to Brian Griese as your starting quarterback.

Quick Mariner note. If you believe everything you read, Grady Little and Terry Collins interviewed with the M's this past week with Don Baylor and Joe Maddon meeting with Bavasi over the weekend. Mike Hargrove and Art Howe remained possibilities for interviews early this week, with a strong possibility of a new manager in place before the World Series. The FO is keeping their lips sealed tightly on this issue, but there have been some indications that Grady Little will be the next Mariner manager.

And Happy Birthday Jeff.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Trent and I agree: give Carlos Beltran whatever he wants (and that David Ortiz fellow isn't too bad, himself).

I'm wiped out from an active weekend and celebrating my birthday today with a pair of tremendous baseball games - three, if you count the ALCS game that didn't end until 1:30 in the morning.

Schilling and Lieber are going to throw about 300 pitches tomorrow, between the two of 'em.