BJOL Picks Seattle Mariners as 2013 AL Surprise Team

For those of you depressed by ZIPS ...

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.... free article at BJOL anointing the M's as their choice to pull a 2012 A's or 2009 Rockies.

The last five teams they picked were the:

  • 2009 Rockies, who went from 74 wins to 92 wins,
  • 2011 Indians, who went from 69 wins to 80,
  • 2012 A's, who went from 74 wins to 94,
  • 2012 Royals, from 71 to 72, and
  • 2012 Padres, from 71 to 76

The average loser had been 70-92, and had posted a season over .500 the following season.  Not shabby.

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=== Thusly ===

The Mariners, Astros, and Pirates score much higher Cinderella Surprise factors than the rest of the pack in 2013.   The scale is from 0-100, and these teams top surprise candidates with scores in the 50's.  A few other teams are in the 30's; others are in the teens or 20's.

This objective, points-for-checkpoints system likes the Mariners because of:

  • the #2 farm system in baseball
  • a Winning record in the 2nd half of 2012
  • the 3rd-youngest hitters in baseball
  • a couple of other things

Dr. D's kibitzing follows on.  No doubt you can do better than him:

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=== 3rd-Youngest Hitters in Baseball ===

The M's score 13 "points" for the youth of their hitters.  The point here, if you haven't had your morning coffee, is that the Mariners' lineup has its best years in front of it.  Obviously Dustin Ackley is going to hit better in the future than he has in the past.  That's not a Seattle perspective; that's axiomatic, as is the fact that Ackley is 24 rather than 34 years old.

Fleming's system does not load in points for having top-10 draft picks.  The Mariners get points for Ackley being young; they don't get points for his being the first amateur hitter selected in his draft.   They'd have gotten as many points from this simple, objective system if Ackley had been Carlos Peguero rather than a hitter who is going to be good.

The same is true of Montero, who was one of the three or four most-coveted hitters in baseball when he debuted last year; the M's got as many points for him as they'd have gotten for Adam Moore.*  

For Saunders, the system if fine as is - Saunders is as likely to have "better" years as any other young player of that sort.  How about Seager?  Is he more likely to improve on 110 OPS+ than some other 25-year-old is on his 110?  Probably not.  Seager's high end is questionable.

Justin Smoak?  Sure, Justin Smoak has much more expectation for improvement than most 25-year-olds with an 87 OPS+.

So the Mariners get 13 points for young hitting, but in view of the elite pedigrees for Ackley, Montero, and Smoak (and Smoak's vast room for improvement!), they should probably get something like 26 points.

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=== 2nd Half Performance ===

The M's didn't really have a "winning" second half.  They were a sturdy average-solid club.

  OBP SLG
Bat 2H .301 .381
Pitch 2H .307 .388

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The Mariners in the second half HAD Felix, Iwakuma, Vargas/Saunders, and Erasmo in the rotation, so it's not like they're going to be able to just waltz past their 2H 2012 pitching performance.  

Well, Erasmo started 8 games, and Hultzen/Paxton might replace Beavan, but a quantum leap in pitching isn't so easy.  

A quantum leap in hitting, that is not only easy, but on paper, already accomplished with the new #3-4 hitters.  You're not going to even need the young players to bust out for that.

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=== #2 Farm System ===

James was the first one, back in the 1980's, to notice that "Cinderella" teams do in fact tend to have strong minors systems the year before.  In real time, ballclubs actually do need to dip into the minors to fix weaknesses -- an Alex Liddi for an injured Kyle Seager, a Carlos Triunfel for an injured Brendan Ryan.

And star-power rookies do affect pennant races.

The M's get 19 points for this category, but it's better than that for M's fans.  Those 19 points would be the same, even if the M's had an elite system with their players at lower levels.  The M's system is front-loaded with elite minor league talent that is at AA/AAA -- Hultzen, Paxton, Zunino, Nick Franklin, etc.  The Mariners have a pretty good shot at a ROY type performance, at least in the second half.  For that matter, they could have three ROY performances in the second half.

In fact BaseballHQ puts Taijuan Walker among its 50 minor leaguers most likely to have an MLB roto impact this coming season .... let's run an article on that.  Where the roto guys see our ML-ready prospects as ready to produce in 2013.

 

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Comments

It's funny but I've had a gut feeling every since the 2nd 1/2 of last season the M's were on the rise. Of course the several other message boards would call me crazy for even suggesting this.
I suppose the majority of casual M's fans are fickle and couldn't appreciate a winning record if it was starring them in the eye. But I digress.

Forget about optimism I havent subscribed to that type thought the M's had any chance to win a pennant since 2000-2001.

There is a lot of moving pieces in the organization. The youngsters are hungry. Now you're surrounded by a few vets that were in contention in 2012 signed in the offseason.

The talent hasn't been fully unleashed. Well see what happens but I feel exicted about the season for the first time in nearly a decade.

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He's got two or three friends working on the site, but that's kind of like a statement from the administration on Bengazi :- ) 

You're right Mike.  It's a "Cry Wolf" problem.  When the wolf finally gets here, the villagers don't run out to help.  But the young talent is hitting the beach -- as M-Pops put it, Zduriencik has pretty well built in his 80-win floor at this point.

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ghost's picture

ghost

The Astros might well lose 125 games this year. And no...I'm not exaggerating. Pickingh them as a potential surprise team is hilarious.

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... the Astros win anything north of 60 games, it will surprise a lot of people. North of 75? That will take an act of God, IMHO.

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ghost's picture

ghost

So...technically...you coudl mark the Astros down as a team that could surprise by merely winning 60 games. It would shock the heck out of me if they did that well.

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kweloper's picture

kweloper

We also have the Astros in our division. Compare playing them a ton of times vs. the average of the other opponents and we're likely going to win a handful more.

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Jason Churchill mentioned the other day that he had surveyed some rival execs, and out of 5, 4 picked the Mariners for 80+ wins and all 5 said they had a lot of potential to surprise people.

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StalkCutter's picture

StalkCutter

Potential to Surprise people is Russian for:

Yes the M's would surprise people if they we able to be a 500 club this year.

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ghost's picture

ghost

Let's just do a quick WAR breakdown..I am no fan of WAR, but it reveals how easily this club could find itself at 90 wins this year:

Replacement level wins: 48

Rotation WAR:

Hernandez (6), Iwakuma (2.5), Ramirez (2.5), Saunders (1.5), #5 spot (1) = 13.5

Bullpen:

Net 5 WAR between the seven guys

Catchers:

Montero (2.5), Shoppach (0.5) (3 total)

Infielders:

Morales (2.5), Smoak (1), Ackley (2.5), Seager (2), Ryan (2), Andino (0.5), extras (0) - total of 9.5

Outfield:

Saunders (3), Gutierrez/Wells (2.5 between 'em depending on the heath of Guti), Morse (2), Ibanez (1), extras (0) - total of 8.5

That's 48 + 13 + 5 + 3 + 9.5 + 8.5 = 87 wins. And I made no projections that one could consider even remotely optimistic. I basically projected modest improvement from Ackley, status quo from Seager and Ryan, no big gains from Smoak, modest gains from Montero linked to more catching time, status quo from Morse and Morales...you get the picture.

The gutsiest projection I made was that the club would lead or be near the top of the AL in reliever WAR. I don't think that's much of a stretch.

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back in the 80's when Bill James predicted we'd win the AL West if we hired Dick Williams as our manager - and then we did!! :-)

Joking aside, it's good to hear this.

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When I first read this article, I thought that BJOL was completely and utterly certifiable. But, the more I thought about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that Seattle surprising in 2013 isn't crazy whatsoever.

In 2008, the San Francisco Giants finished the season 72-90 (4th in the NL West).
Collectively, that team sported ...

a .262 Batting Average ... had a team OBP of .321 ... hit 94 HR's ... and a SLG% of .382
Pitching Wise, they had Tim Lincecum (18-5 w/a 2.62 ERA), Matt Cain (8-14 w/a 3.76 ERA), and basically nothing else of any note anywhere in that rotation or in the pen. All around, that team was fairly mediocre at best.

In 2009 though, the Giants went 88-74 (a 16 game jump). Now what's really interesting to me in looking at the numbers is that guys like Bengie Molina, Randy Winn, and Aaron Rowand actually had a better years offensive numbers-wise in 2008 than they did in 2009 ... and yet, the team won 16 more games in 2009!?! What gives?

Well, as far as position players are concerned, the team really only made 2 significant additions ...

INF Juan Uribe (.289 BA ... .329 OBP ... 16 HR's ... .495 SLG%)
3B Pablo Sandoval (.330 BA ... .387 OBP ... 25 HR's ... .556 SLG%)

Pitching wise, Lincecum did his thing (15-7 w/a 2.48 ERA) ... BUT the other guys in rotation simply pitched better than they had the previous year ...

Matt Cain (3.76 ERA in 2008 ... 2.89 ERA in 2009)
Barry Zito (5.15 ERA in 2008 ... 4.03 ERA in 2009)
Jonathan Sanchez (5.01 ERA in 2008 ... 4.24 ERA in 2009)

Closer Brian Wilson also had a much better season than the year he had prior ...

Brian Wilson had 41 Saves, but a 4.62 ERA in 2008 -- he came back the next year, saved 38 games ... but also only had a far more respectable 2.74 ERA in the process.

The Giants said goodbye to Kevin Correia and his 6.05 ERA as their 5th starter ... adding 45 year old Randy Johnson in his place (4.88 ERA in 96.0 Innings) ...

and re-vamped the rest of their bullpen entirely, adding ...

Brandon Medders (3.01 ERA in 68 2/3 Innings)
Bob Howry (3.39 ERA in 63 2/3 Innings)
Jeremy Affeldt (1.79 ERA in 62 1/3 Innings)

The next season (of course) ... with an Aubrey Huff for Travis Ishikawa switch here ... a Pat Burrell for Fred Lewis swap there ... and a dash of Buster Posey for garnish on the top, the Giants were World Series champions.

With the moves this Mariners team has made this offseason, would it shock me whatsoever if this team does the unthinkable and wins 85 to 87 games or more?

Given the offseason additions they've made ... coupled with the real probability of a potential shot in the arm of mid season additions (Zunino, Franklin, Paxton, Romero, etc.) -- ala Buster Posey in 2010 -- it's not at all out of the realm of possibility if the other guys on this team simply do what the Giants players did -- simply play up to their potential.

If the young guys on this team simply play up to what they're capable of doing ... most certainly this team can be a surprise team this year. I'm looking forward to seeing if this M's team can actually pop out of the cake and shock a few people out there this year.

MA

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SABR MattWell in 2015, the Mariners will travel about 82% as much as they did in 2014.1 hour 45 min ago
MtGrizzlyInteresting. Armstrong is the gift that keeps on giving. No transition strategy? Sloppy management, that.2 hours 14 min ago
bsrOne other tidbit, Mather says it's not primarily Safeco that turns off players from coming to Seattle, it's the excessive travel. And says he's been pressing the new commish heavily for some improvement on this front, but it'll likely take a year or two to see anything happen.3 hours 11 min ago
bsrMather also reveals (in so many words) that Z would have been gone if this year hadn't gone well, though they were hoping not to have to cut him loose. He also talks quite candidly about how unprepared he was for the baseball ops side of the President job, how Chuck Armstrong never told him anything about it. A little disheartening given the missed LaRussa opportunity but on the flip side, it comes across that he is far more hands off with the GM. Which I would say is better on balance than having a meddlesome prez like Chuck who thinks he knows baseball.3 hours 13 min ago
bsrWorth listening to the entire Mather interview, but basically the key quote was: "We need to be 85 to 95 wins every year...we need to be competitive year-in, year-out". That is very clearly the M's org philosophy at this point. For better or worse. Reminds me a lot of the famous Pete Carroll philosophy, "Win (8-12 Games a Year) Forever"...sorry, so hard not to be cynical about these bland Mariner rallying cries. But I do appreciate their emphasis on not having a long losing drought again. That clearly seems to have been a scarring experience for ownership and management.3 hours 18 min ago
MtGrizzlyI think it's funny that the ownership committee is shooting for 93 wins before the off season even starts. 93 should secure a wild card, so I guess that is what they are aiming for.4 hours 48 min ago
DaddyOIt is just like the Mariners to amplify just how much agony they endure at any expenditure increase, and how grateful what they wish was a sycophantic fan base should be.8 hours 22 min ago
MtGrizzlyFrom mlbtr: "The Mariners, Mather explained, overshot their allotted player personnel budget by nearly $16MM in 2014. However, ownership had no complaints after seeing the team’s strong performance. Rather than asking how the $16MM would be recouped, they instead asked Mather how the team was going to get six more wins in 2015."1 day 2 min ago
mojicianBe sure to tune into the shoutbox if you ever want to hear tomorrow's news today. :)1 day 5 hours ago
mojicianI'd like the record to reflect that I called a Giants World Series win on the night of the NL Wild Card game and right before the World Series started. My foresight is not quite 20-20, so I predicted a series win in five games. I want bragging rights and a bracket of some kind.1 day 5 hours ago
MtGrizzlyTo be fair, it's not as if Smoak had any success with his 'old' batting mechanics.1 day 15 hours ago
moethedogModern coaches would probably try to fix M. Ott or S. Oh!2 days 4 hours ago
moethedogChanging a hitter's stroke is more tricky than we wish to admit. There is a lot of investment by a player that has to be discarded, some can't do it. Many struggle because the stroke they have is their natural one, and the right one given their particular set of physical skills, make-up, vision, etc. Just telling a player to "go the other way" and assuming that fixes him is problematic, as is much "teaching" in that regard. PGA Tour-level players regularly "lose it" as they try to make mechanical fixes, some never get it back. What we think is purely mechanical is often bio-mechanical, meaning that a persons body optimally functions is a certain way. "Fixing" that may not be a fix. You older guys will remember Keith "Silk" Wilkes, the former UCLA and NBA player. He had a completely weird jump shot stroke that you would teach to nobody...but it worked.2 days 4 hours ago
moethedog"Fixing" it would have been disastrous. I think both Smoak and Ackley have been "fixed" to death. leaving them alone would have been a much better option. Some guys can be changed for the better. Some can't. Leave those guys alone. Hitting coaches (like swing coaches) are paid to coach, so they do. But I think in the majority of cases they would be better (at the MLB level) if they just said, "Swing a lighter bat" or "stand closer to the plate" or "take a day off" a lot more than they do. Not every problem can be "mechanically" fixed.2 days 4 hours ago
DaddyOI hope Smoak figures how to carve out a productive MLB career for himself. Meanwhile, he remains just one of a number of M's can't-miss hitting prospects who so far have sputtered and missed. A team can only pitch so well. Meanwhile they have to score some runs. Of course that sentiment is preaching to the choir.2 days 5 hours ago
SABR MattMcClendon's impulse to get Smoak to hit the opposite way and get on top of the ball was, (assuming this analysis is correct) the right thing to instruct. Smoak wanted to be a power hitter though. A power hitter's brain with a contact hitter's actual power because his swing was greedy and mechanically flawed.2 days 6 hours ago
SABR MattJust had an interesting discussion with a hitting instructor who used to intern with the Yankees the year I was there about Smoak. He thinks the Mariners fouled up Smoak's swing mechanics. He sees in Smoak's vids, a guy who starts the bat head too low in the zone and whose swing is too wristy, meaning when he wants to hit for power (gets a cookie pitch), he is going to have to swing up at the ball and the barrell will be at both an upper-cutting and a hinged (pullside) angle. If he squares it up with that funky contact plane, the ball will be a very high fly ball (subject to warning track outs)...and if he gets funny contact, he will ground out to the pull side. Hey...remind me again...what were Smoak's main out types? When he looked at scouting vids of early Smoak...he didn't start the bat head too low and his swing was way less wristy.2 days 6 hours ago
Bat571I suspect the Ms let Blake walk, though. If he's smart, he'll run to the D'backs and sign for whatever to get a chance to work with Dave Duncan. He's the classic Duncan project - big RH that doesn't overpower people and needs to learn how to pitch.2 days 23 hours ago
Bat571Griz - I think Blake Beavan is still in the org. He was outrighted to Tacoma in August, and can become a free agent if not put back on the 40-man by a date that's pretty soon or signed to a new minor league deal, but the Ms still have a shred of the return left.2 days 23 hours ago
DaddyOThis has nothing to do with current conversations, but I sure like Joe Panik. Not just his stats, but the way he plays the game. This guy is going to be a fixture for a LONG time.3 days 2 hours ago