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 MattHeard about that yesterday, and don't find it the least bit surprising. Felix's home country is in a heap of trouble.2 hours 26 min ago
MtGrizzlyFrom the Times: "• Multiple sources in Venezuela are reporting that the Mariners have closed their baseball academy in Aguirre, Carabobo, because of political and social unrest in the country. The players, coaches and staff in Venezuela will be transferred to the Mariners’ new facility in the Dominican Republic. Organization officials would not comment on the situation."5 hours 29 min ago
SABR Mattsuch a shame to lose Choi...I thought he was the most mature hitter in our system...the most likely to succeed immediately.5 hours 54 min ago
GrumpyUgh. Worst case scenario for Choi. Other than breaking his back again at the same time.8 hours 8 min ago
Tacoma RainDutton says the Mariners expect Choi to miss at least 4 to 6 months... thus this is a lost year for Choi. And unfortunately for Choi, he will have a tough time getting attention with all the others coming behind him. I was really hoping for better things for Choi.14 hours 48 min ago
Gordon GrossVery true bat. I meant that it didn't affect Choi at all, but it is the smarter roster move for staying alert and able to be active in Spring Training.14 hours 58 min ago
Bat571But it does give the Ms a 40-man spot. The 60-day would also, but it doesn't start until ~ the week before Opening Day. But if Olmos is back, that's the roster spot they need for him until he officially clears waivers and can be outrighted to Tacoma. At that point the Ms would have a spot for Baker or a pitcher if they need it.15 hours 9 min ago
Gordon GrossChoi is not out of options, so it's effectively nothing. They designated him to go to the minors, using an option year they would have had to use anyway, and that way he's not clogging the roster. No big.15 hours 40 min ago
GLSWhat is the significance of the DFA move in this situation?15 hours 46 min ago
Bat571Apparently the Mariners have DFA'd Choi rather than wait to 60-day DL him.15 hours 51 min ago
Bat571Montero has 1 option left of 3. Ackley and Hultzen, who signed MLB/40-man contracts have a 4th option each. Erasmo is the only one out of options.16 hours 17 min ago
MtGrizzlyThe sports writers have all been talking about how Montero is headed to Tacoma. I guess they could be wrong.18 hours 38 min ago
moethedogKiv-le-mashing-han! Dustin whom?19 hours 5 min ago
mojicianOn further review, I think that restricted list time does not affect option years as long as the player actually spent 20 days in the minors while on the 40 man roster.19 hours 54 min ago
mojicianI don't think that Montero's 2012 option year counts because he never went to the minors during that year. I'm not sure how the 2014 restricted list stint factors into option years as well. Montero should be protected for 2015.20 hours 11 min ago
SpectatorStill with the M's from Bravai drafts? Mark Lowe ... ha! full circle, but he's not on the roster yet. Forrest Snow was drafted by both Bavasi out of HS and Jack out of UW. Didn't know that. Nate Tenbrink maybe still holding on by his fingernails. Everyone else has been flushed I think.20 hours 39 min ago
Gordon GrossAssuming we can get Montero there. He's out of options.20 hours 48 min ago
SpectatorAll coming off of Shawn Kelley. Amazingly, with Kelley, Morrow and Maurer, I think the Pods have more Bavasi draftees than the M's. In fact, that might be half of the Bavasi draftees left in the majors. (Though I think there was a Anthony Varvaro sighting recently ...) (Aumont maybe?) (OK Tillman, Fister and Josh Fields I guess + Condor of course.)20 hours 48 min ago
MtGrizzlyKivlehan, DJ and Montero in middle of that Tacoma lineup aught to be something.20 hours 52 min ago
Gordon GrossRomero walked! That's about as impressive for him as a HR would be. Do more of that, son.20 hours 57 min ago