Dustin Ackley: "We're a Good Team Now"
Well, that's what he sounded like, anyway


From Bill James Online a few days ago:

Strange stats. From 7/23/12 when Ichiro Suzuki went to the Yankees, until 8/31/12, the Yankees played .500 ball. 18 and 18. During that same span the Mariners went 22-14. With Ichiro, they were 42-55, 13 games under .500. Without him they're 8 games over .500. Is that too small a sample, or is there something there?
Asked by: mauimike
Answered: 9/2/2012
The chance that a .485 team would go 22-14 or better in a stretch of 36 games is 9%, meaning that every team of the calibre of the Mariners would probably have a stretch like that at some point.   Also, it's an edited sample; they're 22-14, but they've lost two games since then and I would presume they lost the game BEFORE you started counting, so they're actually 22-17 within the sample that is implied.   
I'm not saying the team ISN'T better without Ichiro.   It's entirely possible that it is.   We don't have very clear evidence. 


That's mathematically true as far as it goes, although in kicking this soccer ball down the field, there's a minor point and two major points.  Minor point:  the M's beat the Red Sox in a series since that answer, and beat them convincingly, such that it appeared that the Mariners were the superior team.

Major point #1:  the statistical chance here, the binomial calculation, isn't as important as just watching the ballclub, as James allows in finishing up.  He's not saying that the M's aren't better.  He's saying that 22-14 is nothing super amazing from a stats point of view.  I agree.

Major point #2:  that .485 figure is taken from after the winning streak was completed.  If you define the "Before and After" split as "Before and After Ichiro Played Here," then the "Before" Mariners were 42-55, a .433 winning percentage.  I think you and I, on the day that Ichiro was traded, would have all agreed that the "Before" Mariners were a .433 club, not a .485 club, eh?  Anybody disagree?

After Ichiro, the M's record has been 25-16, a .610 winning percentage.  Here, let's chart it:

Team Record % 162 Games
With Ichiro 42-55 .433 70-92
Without Ichiro 25-16 .610 99-63

Having read that last cell, you may pick your jaws up off the floor.

Incidentally, the chance that a .433 team would win 25+ of its next 41 games is -- if we were playing Strat-O-Matic -- would be 1.7%.  Okay.  There is a difference between "skeptical" -- you believe only strong evidence -- and "cynical" -- you don't believe even strong evidence.  1.7% is good enough.  The M's are better now than they used to be.


PRIMARY CONCLUSION:  the M's used to be definitely bad.  Now they're kinda good.  

OBSERVATION:  This started about when Ichiro left.  

CAVEAT:  In fairness, before Ichiro left, they'd been playing .500 for about two weeks, and they'd been scoring LOTS more runs, especially at home.  No, SSI doesn't think that Ichiro's leaving was the primary cause of the .610 baseball since then.  Several things, in our view, combined to create a "tipping point":

  • Warmer weather at home, ending the Safeco Suffocation
  • Hisashi Iwakuma
  • The bell sounding on the Kiddie Klubhouse (yes, with Ichiro's departure)
  • Noesi having been sent down (two weeks earlier)
  • Jaso playing every day and Jesus Montero hitting mo like a MOTO
  • etc.

On the postgame today, Ackley was asked about the confident manner in which the M's sent the Red Sox packing.  He lamented, "it's a shame we didn't play like this in the first half," meaning "We are a good baseball team now.  I'm sorry it's too late to do anything about 2012, because we could, if we had the time."  Whether some blogger thinks the Mariners are a good team now, that should concern you less than whether Dustin Ackley thinks so.

Since the All-Star Break, the M's have scored 194 runs and allowed 175.  Now, let's not get carried away ... since the All-Star Break, the M's pitching slash line is 245/301/371.  Its offensive slash line is 237/299/369.  Base for base, they've been in a dead-even Rocky Balboa Apollo Creed slugging match right in the center of the ring.

But there's all kinds of slop in that from the M's point of view.  They're holding tryouts in the field, tryouts involving Trayvon, Casper Wells, Thames, Smoak... Miguel Olivo we don't figure will be here next year.  Millwood and Beavan are in the rotation rather than Paxton and Hultzen.  Pryor and Capps aren't done with their acclimation periods.

They've been a 99-win team since Ichiro left -- not 99 wins' worth of talent, just 99 wins' worth of wins, going 25-16.  Their bases gained and lost are already solidly break-even.  They've got Felix and Iwakuma, a great defense, two excellent catchers, and hungry young players around the diamond.  They go into next spring training as -- if you assume a good job picking the roster -- an 85-win team.  Pryor, Capps, Paxton, Hultzen and Carp step up, maybe more.

They pencil out next March as a +30, +40 runs team, and you need +100 to contend.  I want a "splash" add more than anybody, but objectively speaking those runs could come from natural development of the kids.

The facts are the facts,

Dr D



They might add the runs through natural improvement: Ryan going back to 2011 form, Ackley and Montero stepping forward, Guti being off the DL, Saunders being more consistent, Seager overcoming the 2012 Safeco effect... and then the M's are right in the wild card hunt. With -1 WAR combined from LF and 1B, since I think they can do it without Smoak or the 4th OFs working out. You make the splash add to go with the natural improvement, all of a sudden the team goes from a wild card contender to quite a bit more... 1 COF. 1 #2 SP. Let's do this.

UncleWalter's picture

The Yankees aren't playing Ichiro much now, and I didn't think they would as soon as their lead evaporated. Ichiro will be fortunate to finish the year in NY, I think.


As my sensei cheered me one time as a black-belt ground my face into the mat.  Heh.
Let's do this fo' sho'.  I wouldn't expect any DEBATE as to whether the Mariners should ATTEMPT to make the playoffs in 2013.  This 99-win pace, the last 41 games, the number of talented kids who have 500-1,000 AB's under their belts, it's time. 
Will be surprised if ANYbody argues for punting 2013.


I got the Ichiro post up just a bit too late for your comment :- )
Ya, they sat him what, three games the last week and unless he heats up again I'd think he'll be peddling his wares on the open market.  Wonder what the ideal park for him would be.

misterjonez's picture

Driving the ball the other way down the line seems perfect for an aging player with his limited skillset, and both of those parks have big walls and a short porch to left.
Neither would have him, though, I fear. Small chance In Houston for legitimacy reasons, what with the division switch and their rebuild. I'd just like to see him in the NL where he could get a few cheap months introducing himself to the league.

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