Mariners Trading Deadline Moves Indicate Strong Push for 2018

It’s no secret that the last time the Mariners made the post-season was 2001. And so with the team within striking distance of the playoffs this year, an impatient management team could go all-in with a pair of 6’s and hope for the best. Thankfully, this team held onto its chips and is preparing for the next hand.

Bad luck happens. Who knows where the team would be with a healthy Smyly and Iwakuma all year? Give them +4 wins with those guys and the standings look different. But that’s baseball.

Sure, they may still make an unexpected run in September this year and make the Wild Card. In which case they’d have to fly to New York or Boston and win a one game series against Sonny Gray or David Price. And their reward for winning that would be a five game series with Houston.

I think the Mariners made the right moves by not betting the farm – literally. You have to figure the team has at best about a 20-25% chance to make the Wild Card, a 35-40% chance of winning the Wild Card game, and a 30-35% chance of beating the Astros. Multiply those out and it gives you about a 3.5% chance of making it to the ALCS. That isn’t worth mortgaging the future.

This year the problem was that they made it to the trading deadline, wanted to bring in some added help, and didn’t have much to give in return. So the team did the next best thing. If they couldn’t get people to help in 2017, they went and got a few players they could use at the 2018 deadline.

When we get to July 31, 2018, hopefully the Mariners will be within striking distance for the AL West. Let’s assume the team can pick up a piece or two via free agency this off-season to add to a solid core (Segura, Cano, Cruz and Seager,) a good young outfield, some quality starting pitchers and a lights-out bullpen. Then with a depth of starting pitching acquired at this year’s deadline, and an improved farm system, they’ll have the trading pieces they need for some key late season acquisitions.

Whether or not they make an unexpected run this year, the table is set for 2018 and beyond. And that’s a good thing.

Some Fun Trivia to Celebrate Mariners Opening Day

It’s the home opener of our favorite hometown 9, the Seattle Mariners. So let’s take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and review some stats and trivia since the day the Mariners were bounced from the last playoff game in which they participated, October 22, 2001.

Things that did not exist the last time the Mariners were in the playoffs:

  • Xbox (launched 11/15/01), Century Link Field (2002), Facebook, Instagram, iPhone, Amazon Web Services, Seattle Sounders, Oklahoma City Thunder, Tesla, Uber, Snapchat, Link Light Rail.

Notable stats from October 2001:

  • U.S. President: George W Bush
  • 2001 U.S. House of Representatives: Democrats 213, Republicans 220
  • 2001 U.S. Senate: Democrats 50, Republicans 49, Independent 1
  • 2001 Seattle Mayor: Paul Schell through November, then Greg Nickels elected
  • 2001 Washington Governor: Gary Locke
  • 2002 Oscars (for movies produced in 2001):  Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind | Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Training Day) | Best Actress: Halle Berry (Monsters Ball)
  • Top 10 TV shows, 2001-2002 season: Friends, CSI, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law & Order, Survivor, Monday Night Football, The West Wing, Will & Grace, Leap of Faith
  • 2002 Grammy Awards (for songs produced in 2001):  Song of the year: Fallin, by Alicia Keys | Record of the year: Walk On, by U2 | Album of the year: O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
  • 10 Richest People in the World: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Karl and Theo Albrecht, Paul Allen, Larry Ellis, 5 heirs to Sam Walton – Jim, John, Alice, S Robson, Helen

Sports Champions since the day the Mariners lost in 2001:

  • World Series winners: Arizona, Anaheim, Florida, Boston (3),  Chicago White Sox, St. Louis (2), Philadelphia, New York Yankees, San Francisco (3), Kansas City, Chicago Cubs.
  • Super Bowl winners: New England (5), Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh (2), Indianapolis, New York Giants (2), New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle (YAY!), Denver
  • NBA Champions: Who cares, the league ceased existing to me in 2008.

Statistical Points of Interest:

  • Seattle Population:  2001 – 570k | 2013 – 652k
  • Cost of Super Bowl Ad: 2001 – $2.2 million  | 2017 –  $5.0 million
  • Internet Advertising Revenue: 2001 – $7.2 Billion | 2015 – $59.6 Billion

The Problem With Expectations

Today is a day for long-time Mariners fans to do some reflecting. Yesterday seemed like a re-run of something we have seen before. A game against the Yankees, that we should have been won, and yet somehow turned into a loss.

Let’s look at the Mariners record since 1977 and then this year:
+ Going into 2015, the team was 2,822-3,209. That’s a winning pct of .468 which gives them an average of 76 wins per year.
+ In 2015, the Mariners are currently 24-28. That’s a winning pct of .462, which would project them to win 75 games this year.
So by all accounts, the 2015 Mariners are performing ALMOST EXACTLY in line with the 1977 – 2014 Mariners. And yet this season feels like a failure.

So why did this defeat feel so much worse? Why did this loss feel like the end of a season?

It’s simple really. Expectations.

I think you can break the Mariners into 3 eras. Pre-Lou. Lou. And Post-Lou. Lou was the Manager from 1993-2002, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to start the “Lou” era 2 years after he got to Seattle (to account for the time it took for him to make his impact) and end it the year after he left (to account for the residual effect he may have had.)

Pre-Lou (1977 to 1994) – Record: 1,215-1,595 (.432). Avg record: 70-92
Lou (1995 to 2003) – Record: 802-637 (.557). Avg record: 90-72
Post-Lou (2004 – 2015) – Record: 829-1005 (.452). Avg record: 73-89

So if you became a Mariners fan after 2003, your expectations are nil. I mean you *may* remember 2009 when they rang up 85 wins, but more likely 2014 was the first time you realized their season actually extended into September.

But if you were here from 1995-2003, well there are EXPECTATIONS. We had 4 playoff runs in those 9 years and were over .500 every year except two. Making the playoffs 4 out of 9 years seems about right for a team with the best pitcher in the game, a beautiful ballpark and access to a ton of cash.

So many people hoped that with last year’s results, the Post-Lou era could be officially closed. We could make 2014 the first year of the new “Cano” era. 2015 would be EXPECTED to improve upon the last.

And thus last night felt like the end of that hope.

The Mariners can play 24-28 baseball the rest of the season and perform in line with the average history of the franchise. But this year the expectations were bigger – that the team had broken out of the Post-Lou funk. And thus this year’s “average” performance will bring with it disenchantment and disappointment. That’s the problem with expectations.

What’s Up With the Mariners Spending Spree?

To get things started, let’s be clear that I have no insight, intelligence or idea why the Mariners are suddenly spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave. $100 million for Seeger, $60 million for Cruz, maybe more for Cabrera. This is very un-Mariner like. So let’s speculate on a few reasons this is happening.

1) They’ve saved up a war chest that we cannot even imagine.
The Mariners have been bad bad bad for a long long time. Sure they had a couple of years between 2004 and 2013 of relative mediocrity. But after winning 93 games in 2002 and 2003, they finished above .500 two years out of 10. Heck they finished under .400 three times. All told they won just 44$ of their games. And yet they still made money. Year after year of cash registers firing all season long. It’s possible that they have so much money saved up, that now they have a chance to win, they are going all in. Budgets be damned.

2) There’s a new sheriff in Japan.
Mariners savior, long time owner and Safeco Field no-show Hiroshi Yamauchi died in Sept 2013. According to Wikipedia, he sold his shares to Nintendo in 2004, stayed on the Nintendo board and was tasked with running the team while he was alive. Of course, we know that the Operations were run by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong (since retired). But maybe this non-baseball fan was just managing to the bottom line. I don’t know how the transition process worked after his death, but we can make a pretty safe assumption that someone new on the Nintendo board is in charge. Maybe they like baseball? Or coming to Seattle? Or coming to baseball games in Seattle? Or meeting baseball players? Or meeting Jay-z and Beyonce? Who knows.

3) Howard Lincoln is retiring soon?
If I was the long-time CEO of the Mariners, I would not want my Wikipedia profile to read, “Boyer ran the Mariners for 15 years, the longest tenure of any CEO to not make a World Series.” Let’s say that Lincoln has an expiration date on his Mariners tenure. That would accelerate his will to win in the next 2 years, not keep building the war chest.

Chuck Armstrong was the one who refused to spend any money?
Armstrong retired last year. Maybe he was the guy hiding all the money under the mattress.

4) Felix handed down an ultimatum?
We all wondered why the best pitcher in baseball would sign a long-term deal that pretty much eliminates him from ever being qualified for the Hall of Fame. I’m not going to go ALL stats geek here but from 2006-2013, the Mariners went 586-710 (.452). Felix was 106-82 (.563) with a ridiculous ERA of 3.22. So in the games Felix DIDN’T get a decision, the Mariners were 480-628 (.433). Let’s make up some calculations. Pretend the Mariners could be .500 in games Felix didn’t pitch. That would get them another 71 wins, or 15% more. So let’s do the same thing with Felix. Give him 15% more wins. Now instead of 106-82, he’s 122-66. The Mariners ineptitude for 8 years basically cost him 16 wins – or 2 wins a year. If he pitches for 18 years at that pace it takes him from a 239 win pitching version of Edgar to a 275 win pitcher with HoF aspirations.

5) All of the above
Is it unreasonable to think that the Mariners are a franchise with buckets and buckets and buckets of $1000 bills buried under 2nd base, a new TV deal that will make them even MORE money, an “owner” in Japan who is younger and more interested in the fun part of winning baseball games, an outgoing CEO who wants a legacy, a void in the front office where a penny pincher used to sit and a superstar “face of the franchise” who demanded they make some changes for him to stay a few years ago? That’s where I fall on this. We may have a super fun run from 2015-2017. I wonder what happens when the Perfect Storm subsides…

Friday Fun – What It Would Take to Make the Mariners the Top Hitting Team in Baseball

I’ll preface this by saying that this will not be the most complex baseball analysis you’ve ever read. I understand that to make this worth anything, I’d need to factor in stadium anomalies, opposing pitcher records and fielding statistics. If you want an exotic smorgasboard of premium baseball analysis, I suggest heading over to the U.S.S. Mariner.com. Consider my contribution here the baseball equivalent of a food truck.

But this week I wondered aloud, what would it take for the Mariners to be the best hitting team in baseball? Are we one player away or nine? I really didn’t know so I dusted off my excel spreadsheet for this totally unscientific report.

The test is simple. If we replaced the lowest performing Mariners starter with the best hitter in baseball, how would team stats change? Then, how many times do we have to do that to be among the top?

Step 1: Where are we today?

Let’s take a look at the MLB Team Batting Averages, ranked 1-30. (Yes, I know Batting Average is an antiquated way to calculate offensive performance. Remember, I’m only working with a food truck kitchen.)

Major_League_Baseball_Team_Averages_April_25

 

Step 2: What do our individual stats look like?

So here’s a quick look at the Mariners batting stats. I highlighted the starters, because that’s really the analysis we need to do. There are 8 clear starters, and 4 players who seem to regularly rotate around as that 9th player in the lineup, and a few guys with a couple of at bats each. So for the purpose of this discussion, which is trading one starter for another, we’ll only work with the 8 regulars.

Mariners_Averages_April_25

 

Step 3: What happens when we trade our lowest performing starter for the leading hitter in baseball?

Again, we’re ranking the best hitter by average, not WAR, OPS or anything complex. Right now, that guy is Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, who is off to a blistering .410 start. So here’s our new roster, subbing Blackmon for our lowest average starter, Kyle Seager.

Mariners_Averages_April_25_Blackmon

Our average jumped 24 points to .246. So by replacing our worst hitter with MLB’s best, we’ve only made it to 18th on the list.

 

Step 4:  What happens when we trade our two lowest performing starters for the two leading hitters in baseball?

Once again we head to Colorado, where we are kidnapping Troy Tulowitski and putting him on a cargo plane north. This time it’s Brad Miller who is getting our ax.

Mariners_Averages_April_25_Tulowitski

We’ve now jumped to .267 which puts us a very respectable 7th in the league. So what does it take to get to the top?

 

Step 5:  What happens when we trade our THREE lowest performing starters for the THREE leading hitters in baseball?

Say good-bye to Abraham Almonte and please welcome Dayan Viciedo and his .377 average to the Pacific Northwest.

Mariners_Averages_April_25_Viciedo

We’ve now swapped out 33.3% of our starting lineup, and raised our batting average 63 points. And yet, that still keeps us behind the League Leading Colorado Rockies. (And yes, I know that if we took two guys off their roster they wouldn’t be at .301 anymore. Just go with it.)

 

Bonus Section:

I have the spreadsheet built, so let’s do one more just for fun. Suppose we didn’t attain the three top hitters in baseball in what surely would be the savviest three-way trade in the history of baseball. Suppose we just ended up with three hitters who were at the MLB average replacing our lowest three.

Now, this is a little wonky, because I took the MLB averages for all the teams combined, and then divided those by 9. The reasoning is that each team has 9 spots in the batting order, so it’s a fair approximation of what the average player on the average team would do if he played in every game.

Mariners_Averages_April_25_Average

You see we jump up to .241, which only gets us in a tie for 22nd with Arizona.

 

Conclusion:

So how far are the Mariners away from having an offense that strikes fear into opposing pitcher rather than just striking out? Well, we are clearly more than 3 average hitters away. And it’s unlikely we’ll get the three top hitters. So we need at least three well above average hitters to dent the top 10.

If you have a Dropbox account, you can download the spreadsheet here. I don’t know why the numbers look weird in View mode.

If the Mariners Had Kept Everyone They Drafted…

Hat tip to the Snohomish bureau of AndyBoyer.com for digging up this little article from Dominic Lanza at http://itsaboutthemoney.net. The premise  is simple, even though the work was grueling and tedious. Lanza answers the question, “What would every MLB team look like if it was only made up of players it drafted?”

Of course, what you hope is that the team you have today is better than the team on this list. That would indicate you were able to sell the talent you had in your system for more than it was worth, and buy bargains along the way.  Unfortunately, in the Mariners case it looks like we are pretty good at drafting talent, and then selling it at bargain prices.

I added a (*) next to everyone no longer on the roster, meaning they were let go and contributing for someone else now.

Seattle Mariners

Starting Pitchers
• Doug Fister (*)
• Felix Hernandez
• Hisashi Iwakuma
• Brandon Morrow (*)
• Chris Tillman (*)

Bullpen
• Carter Capps
• Shawn Kelley (*)
• Yoervis Medina
• Eric O’Flaherty (*)
• J.J. Putz (*)
• Rafael Soriano (*)
• Matt Thornton (*)

Catchers
• Rene Rivera (*)
• Mike Zunino

Infielders
• Dustin Ackley
• Willie Bloomquist (*)
• Asdrubal Cabrera (*)
• Nick Franklin
• Brad Miller
• Kyle Seager

Outfielders
• Shin-Soo Choo (*)
• Raul Ibanez
• Adam Jones (*)
• Ichiro Suzuki (*)

Designated Hitter
• David Ortiz (*) (though this barely counts.)

More analysis on this report is here on Deadspin.

 

September 7 Will Be Chaos Downtown

I’m not sure how this is even possible, but my Google Calendar says it’s true, so it must be right.

Saturday Sept 7…

The Mariners are at home for a game that starts at 6:10 (See proof here.)
The Sounders play across the street at 7:05 (See proof here.)

Mariners games usually take 2:45 – 3:00 hours. Sounders games by definition take 1:45 (90 minutes plus 15 minutes for halftime).

That means 2 stadiums full of people, across the street from each other, will empty out at EXACTLY the same time, on a Saturday Night. I guess the total will still be slightly less than a Seahawks game, but it still seems like an invitation for chaos.

Can Ichiro Get to 200 Hits?

Ok, this graph took longer than I expected to pull together. So I hope everyone appreciates it.

The question is whether Ichiro has ANY chance at getting to 200 hits. By my count, as of Sunday 8/14, he has 133 hits thru 119 Mariner games, an average of about 1.12 hits per game. That pace gets him to about 181 hits total.

So, my math says he has 43 more games to get 57 hits, an average of 1.56 hits per game. For comparison, if you got 1.56 hits per game over a 162 game schedule, you’d end the season with 252 hits. Now, he’s been averaging 4.18 AB per game, so at that same rate, he’d need to hit .373. So, it is a doable feat for someone like Ichiro.

However, here’s the bad news. In 2011, the highest hits per game he’s averaged is about 1.4 per game. So, he basically needs to have a traditional “Ichiro-like” stretch for 43 games, in a season when he has never been “Ichiro-like.”

In the charts below, here’s what you get:

Chart 1:
– Green line is the day to day pace anyone would need to be on to get to 200 hits.
– Red line is his actual day to pace thru 2011 to date, and then the pace he needs to accelerate to.
– Blue line is his projected season hit total over 162 games, calculated by the number of hits he had at that point in the season.

Chart 2:
– Ichiro’s Average hits per game.
– What Ichiro needs to accelerate to on a hits per game basis in order to get to 200.

Let me know if you have any questions. Math is hard.