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.

3

... 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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GLSThere may come a time when Stanton is available and that time could be this next offseason. With 2 seasons left until free agency, if they offer a long-term deal and he refuses, that's the point at which someone may be able to get him.9 hours 32 min ago
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Bat571Bring Back Hyphen!! The D'Back's DFA'd Ryan Rowland-Smith today. He was 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA last year in AAA. Maybe he'd have something left as a 13th starter/long reliever?10 hours 52 min ago
Gordon GrossI'm regretting not keeping Harang. ;-) He's killing it right now. I could have used a month like that from a starter not named Felix.11 hours 33 min ago
GLSI wonder if the Mariners regret not going after Tanaka.11 hours 48 min ago
Gordon GrossThis is why I wanted Mike Stanton BADLY the last two seasons, and was talking about 4 or 5 top prospects/ young big-leaguers for him if we could do it. Ah well. Sure is a fun guy to watch though.12 hours 7 min ago
Bat571B-ref says he's never played 1B, though. But given Morban's injury history and LHedness, it might be worth a try.12 hours 29 min ago
Bat571Morban's a good idea, too.12 hours 33 min ago
Bat571Granted OF are more *valuable* than 1B, and he is an athletic OF who can play CF, but I still think it'd be worth a try, just to regain the energy in the lineup.12 hours 34 min ago
JDDubHey, a Morban sighting! Hand him a 1B glove to keep him of the DL.12 hours 35 min ago
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JDDubAdding to that, even when walks aren't a problem like tonight we have a bunch of bullpen guys that are constantly struggling behind in the count. Even when they don't walk somebody they're forced to throw some meaty on a 3-1 count far too often.14 hours 42 min ago
JDDubAll I asked for since late last season was a couple reliable bullpen arms. Didn't have to be a closer even. Just $20M to sign a couple guys like Joaquin Benoit, Boone Logan or maybe a Joe Smith. Our pen is too wild, I'm seeing BB/9 of 6,7,8 from our top guys. This pen is going to KILL US all season long. Get used to it. Marlins and Astros. Young, hungry and dangerous. As I figured Eovaldi pretty much shut us down aside for the 2 run single.14 hours 47 min ago
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