How much improvement for an extra $8M?

Q.  By the way, what does $8M buy?

A.  Not everybody is hardcore saber, so...

If you took 10 free agents from any offseason, and they averaged $10M each, they'd all get $100M.... and for that $100M, those ten guys would improve their new teams by about 200-250 runs, total.  That's what analysts do, is add up all the salary spent, and then all the runs created, and divide it up.

This method was invented not by one of the 21st-century sites, but by John Benson in the 1980's.  Benson is a roto champ and a Certified Public Accountant, and he showed us how to valuate player contributions against inflation.

So for every $4.5 to $5.0 million that you spend in the free agent market, you gain 10 runs on average.   Improving your team by +10 runs is enough to move an 81-81 team to 82-80.  (SABRMatt has pointed out that this total will change somewhat if a team is winning 95 or losing 95.)

This also means that +1 run -- saved with the glove, or knocked in with the bat -- costs you about $450,000 to $500,000 on the free agent market.

So, Johjima's saved $8,000,000 gets the M's 16-18 runs, or almost two wins, on the free agent market.


Q.  So you expect 16-18 runs with this $8M?

A.  With this $8M I hope for + 25 runs.  :- )

Notice that it's quite possible to add more than +18 runs to your team with an $8M windfall, because you don't necessarily have to spend it on the FA market.  ... arbitration players cost you only about 50% as much per run, so if that $8M saves you two $4M arb players, you could even save 30-40 runs with it.

Or supposing that you trade with another team that is strapped for cash and needs to unload a player, as the Nats do with Adam Dunn (whose glove is now rendering him unfit for NL consumption.   Dunn makes $10M, but he adds +35 (!) runs over a replacement-level hitter.

Granted, the latest argument is that you can find $427,000 hitters who give you +10 runs at DH.  That's true in some cases, but not in others.  It depends on the day of the week and the circumstances you're in.  (Were the Mariners able to grab a replacement-level shortstop for $427,000 the same day they wanted to?)

The latest word on Marco Scutaro, the prize of the SS free agent derby, is that it will take 8/$27M to get him.  That's Johjima's money almost to a tee.

As opposed to Johjima and Josh Wilson, the M's now play with Marco Scutaro and Johnson/Moore -- without needing to do a thing, from a GM-skill standpoint.

Scutaro will want $8-10M, they say.  But he was worth +44 runs last year (!) and +27 the year before that.

Now, I'm not sure I want to get into a bidding war on Scutaro, who's old and (probably) about to be overpaid.  But you're playing with house money here.   The point is, you don't need to cap your ambitions at 16-runs-for-$8M.   You should challenge yourself to get 25, 30 runs rather than 16-18, because you are a talent expert.


Johjima's $8M impact?   Two wins at least, freebie.  In addition to whatever else the M's do this year.

+16 to +25 runs in addition to whatever else we were gonna do this winter?  Isn't that about the difference between "I hope we contend next year" and "I expect us to contend next year"?

Sweet like ice cream,

Dr D


Taro's picture

"So, Johjima's saved $8,000,000 gets the M's 16-18 runs, or almost two wins, on the free agent market."
It depends on how that money is spent. Joh was actually the 6th most valuable position player on our team with a 1 WAR season.
Granted, the money saved is a a huge plus no matter how you look at it.
I personally really like the idea of Marco Scutaro. He looks very underrated to me (improving plate patience with an average glove) and SS is a gaping hole. 2 years/$15mil with an option year makes some sense.


'cause the defense is suddenly a big nebulous area...
Joh did hit for an 85 OPS+, though, and it's likely that the rooks will cost some runs there.  Your point is well taken.
Hardly a given, though, 'cause Johnson was pretty tough at the plate in August and Moore has a talented bat... but, gingerly, -5 to -10 runs with the bats sounds like best guess...
It will be a pleasure for you to watch Johjima come back home and slug .500, no doubt :- ) ... wish he'd have gotten a chance to hit in Wrigley or something...

M's Watcher's picture

I am having an ongoing discussion with SABRMatt at MarinerCentral on the need to add many more runs scored for 2010 in order to compete with the prospective playoff teams, ~200 runs more in my view.  If 3B and C are set with Tui and Moore, then the team is limited where it can add offense.  Can we resonably expect Tui to put up more than our 2009 3B composite?  I am not counting on any more from Moore than our C composite, though it can only go up.  So what is the most you can get for ~$30M at SS, LF, and maybe DH?  So Dunn is worth +35 runs over replacement level?  So how much is that over Saunders/ Wlad/Langerhans/Chavez in LF? or over Griffey/Sweeney at DH?  Scutaro scored 100 runs and drove in 48 other guys?  Ichiro scores 20+ more runs for free if there are actually bats at #2 and #4 in the order.
So tell me what is possible/reasonable to expect.  I know what i want to see, but maybe this isn't possible while developing too many prospects at the same time.  They all have to hit it big in 2010.  If we don't add enough runs, then maybe I need to lower my expectations.


...would be worth 75 runs to this team...
If you then add the 50 runs we lost due ot bad luck in 2009 and another 25-40 runs from incremental improvements from prospects like Johnson/Moore and Saunders/Ackley over previous're talking about at least the add 150+ runs to the differential.

M's Watcher's picture

If this is so, then the best we can hope for is passing the Strangers for 2nd place in the West behind the Angels, and fail to make the Wild Card behind the 2nd place team in the East.  Maybe the Angels will fall to earth and the AL Worst will return.  Then we have a chance for the division.
Still, I would accept that the team is getting better, even though i want the instant gratification of having a winner now.

Taro's picture

It wouldn't suprise me if the Angels finished last next season. Its the second dumb-luck season in a row except this year they did it with high BABIP and RISP in addition to the customary +5 games over pythag. Add into the fact that Figgins, Lackey, and Abreu are all gone and the the Angels have a lot of work to do.
The Rangers and Oakland are already true talent .500+ teams and are only going to get better with the #1 and #2 farm systems in the game coming into the year. If the Mariners make big improvements this offseason its going to the a dog fight. The AL West is going to be very strong in '10 and beyond.


Why is everyone saying Oakland's farm system is super-dee-duper strong?  I just don't see it.  ALl of their pitchers are high-stoploss low-upside #3 grade guys...there aren't aces in that pipeline.  All of their position player prospects are not sluggers...lots of gap to gap hitters and the like.  I don't see where all of this optimism about Oakland prospects is coming from.
Now Texas does scare me.  They are starting to find some pitching...
And perhaps more importantly...they learned how to field under Washington
That makes them a threat again.  The Mariners will have to find some bats in order to match up with the Rangers better in the future...


+200 added runs is a pretty crazy target.  :- )   It isn't really necessary to pencil out 100 wins in order to fight for the pennant.
Your broad point is compelling.  If you ossify 3B and C, it puts pressure on you to do a ton with just a coupla spots.  That's a very provocative observation.
But the M's were .500 OPS-for-OPS and by the time you add +100 runs on either side of the ball, you're pencilling out close to 90 wins.  
--- THEN --- you have the upsides of Morrow, Snell, Tui, Bedard etc in your hip pocket.   This is a young, talented team.  Pencilling 88-90 wins and then angling for a couple of your blue-chippers to come through is great by me.
In Seattle we are used to Hargrove teams.  With those, your W's were capped on April 1.

Patrick Troen's picture

What about Nick Johnson for 4 years? You could have the top 3 looking like this:
1. Ichiro
2. Nick Johnson(suddenly you have a Olerud type 1B again)
3. Branyan
And suddenly the top of the seattle's lineup look pretty scary. Maybe you could also add lopez in 3 and move Branyan to 4. Although another option is try to acquire dallas mcpherson from the giants(if his back isn't still broken).

M's Watcher's picture

I am not grasping how adding only +100 runs scored gets us anywhere near being a playoff team, unless we played in the Central.  Half our lineup sucked.  No AL playoff team in the last decade has scored fewer than 741 runs (CWS in 2005).  We scored only 640, so adding 100 runs puts us in line with them.  32/40 playoff teams in the past decade scored 800+ runs.  How has history been so wrong, and our current team so different that runs scored don't matter?  It's not like our defense and pitching made us a team for the ages. 


...the probability that we scored 50 runs fewer than we should have and that if we ran the same exact results through 1000 different repeating seasons, we'd score an average of 50 runs more than we did and the 640 figure would be very rare.
In other're still not paying attention to the bad luck factor.

Patrick Troen's picture

Here's why:
Rotation Big 4 or 5
Dallas Braden
Bullpen(already set)
Pitching Summary 3-4 runs per ballgame
C) Kurt Suzuki /Josh Donaldson
1B) Chris Carter
2B) Jemile Weeks
SS) Cliff Pennington/Michael Richard leadoff type player capable of 100+ SB. The slging stat really skews Michael Richard ability to get on base.
3B) Eric Chavez/Brett Wallace
OF) Travis Buck, Scott Hairston, Rajai Davis
DH) Jack Cust? otherwise Hairston could DH or Daric Barton.
Offence Summary
Oakland basically will have a lineup that can either hit 30+ hr or steal 50+ bases so 5-6 runs per ball game


Sorry, but no.
Cahill and Anderson are #2/#3 pitchers in the majors...not a true ace there.  The rest of those pitchers are meatballs...mediocre at best.  I'd rather have Ryan Rowland Smith or Doug Fister than any of those remaining three.
As for the line-up:
Kurt Suzuki is good for his position, granted
Chris Carter does have big time power potential...he's the best prospect in Oakland's system
Jemile Weeks is no better than (say) Asdrubal Cabrera...that's his UPside.  He has neither 50 SB speed (hell...he doesn't even have 25 SB speed), nor massive power, nor a spectacular plate discipline (he's solid, but not amazing here)...he compares favorably to guys like Mark McLemore
Cliff Pennington has a career minor league line of .263/.362/.350 and has never stolen more than 31 bases in any season.
Brett Wallace has done solidly in the minors but has a career K/BB high enough to make me think he's got a lot of growing to do before he's a threat to break out at the big league level.  His power is no more advanced than Jose Lopez.
Rajai Davis had a fluke year this year but has never been able to hold down a regular job until now.  He's carrying a 29/70 BB/K and absolutely ZERO power...he'll be lucky to bat .260 in full time play and with his lack of walks, he's no longer a lead-off hitter if he hits .260.
Travis BUck is now going into his age 26 season and has gotten worse in the major skill metrics in each season since his arrival at the big league level.  Some of it is bad luck on balls in play, but this guy is no better than Ryan Langerhans.
Sorry...but you're just not even remotely close to accurate with your picture of Oakland's system, IMO

M's Watcher's picture

With any luck, Branyan would have accounted for driving in most of the 50 missing Mariner runs.  Or maybe not.  For most of the first half of the year, he batted with crazy high OPS in the #5-hole.  In most of the second half, in the #2-hole, his OPS dropped some 300 points but essentially maintained his RBI/PA.  How's that?  His OPS didn't relate to his runs produced?  Well, yes, it related to his runs scored, but not his RBIs.  For the year, Russ's OPS was essentially the same whether or not he had runners on base, and it was an even split in occurrence.  So what's the difference?  At #2, he batted after high OBP Ichiro.  At #5, I can only speculate that he had fewer runners on base.  Sorry, I don't know where to divine those stats, though our #2-4 holes were poor for the year for OBP.  If he had more runners on base ahead of him, he may not have hit so many solo HRs (19!?!).
So what's my point?  OPS doesn't care if you have runners on base, only if you get on base.  Batting order matters.  You can't drive in teammates when they aren't on base, and vice versa.  What's luck got to do with it?


We rotated a number of good solid players through #2 and #4 spots at various times in the year and they kept NOT hitting with men on base, no matter who they were.  Griffey, Lopez, Beltre, Gutierrez, Branyan...all spent time in BOTH #2 and #4 batting order spots except Beltre and Griffey never hitting 2nd.  Sweeney also hit 4th a lot and he had a good year...just not with people on base., guys.  Learn it.  Use it.  If you're looking for a split...chances are it's there.
Here's the totals by batting order position:
Not only did Branyan crush the ball in April and most of May hitting 5th...but when Gutierrez got hot, they stuck him in the 5 hole.  Otherwise, there's nothing at all inorganic about the progression of OPS values from 1 to 9.  So no...batting order does not account for the lack of runs vs. OPS.  Not really.

Taro's picture

Oakland has a lot of quantity in prospects, an absolutely dominant bullpen, and their SPs are loaded with upside. They basically ran a bunch of rookies out there and still managed to be a true talent .500+ team.
Anderson is an ace starting in '10. Don't ask me how a command lefty with a high 80s fastballs turns into one of the hardest throwing leftys in the majors in 2 years, but it is what it is. Anderson's fastball has been rising every month this season.
The offense is what still isn't there. They're were better than the Mariners offensively, but will still need to add a lot of pieces in the offseason (they can with that system).

M's Watcher's picture

Yes, I like the site also.  Just couldn't find splits of batting with runners on base from the #5 hole or the #2 hole, only season splits. 
Actually, Sweeney, Gut, and Lopez were fine with runners on, OPS-wise.  So we only got good OPS from #1 and #5 holes.  No one got on base before them, and no one hit them in.  Wouldn't that correspond to the lack of runs?  We need more good hitters, or the ones we have to perform.  KC was nearly comparable in team OPS and other batting stats to us, but scored more runs.  Both teams had only 2 spots in the lineup with .800+ OPS, but the rest of KC's lineup had better OPS throughout, five spots .770+ OPS vs. 2 for us.  Standard deviation of OPS through a lineup plus how you fill out the lineup card?

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