Seahawks 23, Saints 15: MACHINE
Nothing off script, gentlemen


Almost never, in a real sports contest, does a game truly "follow script."  Everybody has a plan until the first punch lands.  Real sports are chaotic.

There was very little, in the Seahawks' victory over the Saints, that was off script.  This was something very unusual.


Average, Plus, and Plus-Plus

In baseball scouting, "50" is supposed to mean "major league average."  It is not a sneer, the way that some fans and reporters consider "average" an insult, when they apply it to world-class athletes.  When KJR jocks refer to Trent Dilfer as an "average" NFL quarterback, obviously they don't intend that as a compliment.  They mean that it would be better to die at birth than to have Trent Dilfer as your quarterback.

"Major league average" is most definitely a compliment.  When a scout refers to Corey Hart as a "50" right fielder, he means that as a compliment.  

For example, a "50 HIT" tool means that you are a certified .280 hitter in the major leagues.  .270 to .285, that is the 50 grade.  If I opined that Gordon Gross could hit .279 in the National League, I wouldn't be insulting him.  In terms of PWR, what do you think 50 is?  It's anything between 17 and 24 home runs, that being in the American or National Leagues.  Does any Japanese player have 50 major league power?

Denard Span, Corey Hart, Erick Aybar, and Elvis Andrus all have 50 HIT tools.  They're around .275, .280.  Would you believe that Kyle Seager is below average, at 40?  He doesn't hit .270.  So, yeah, "average-solid" is a compliment.


I guess that "50" is derived from 5 on a scale of 1-10.  Then you go up or down one point based on the "standard deviation," loosely speaking, so that "60" is one SD better than major league average, maybe a little better.

The visceral idea of "60" is that a player can base a nice fulltime career off this one ability (if the rest of his game doesn't have a fatal flaw).

Major league players with 60 HIT tools?  That's anything from .286 to .299, so here we've got Alex Gordon, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran.  Billy Butler and Prince Fielder have 60-65 HIT tools.  These guys are masters of squaring up tough baseball pitches.  

How many Mariners have had 60 HIT tools?  Since 2010, exactly nobody.  No Mariner, in the last three years, has been an above-average hitter, not in the sense of squaring up pitches and hitting for a high average.  Well, Kendrys Morales has a 50 batting average, but actually has a 60 HIT tool.


What, then, could 70 possibly mean?  Here you are talking about special gifts.  These are guys so good at hitting that masters like Billy Butler, Prince Fielder, and Alex Gordon are FAR behind them.  Only certified .300 hitters need apply.

Troy Tulowitzki has a 70 HIT tool; if Butler, Prince, and Gordon were in AAA, Tulowitzki would be promoted up out of their league to another league.  Mike Trout has a 70 HIT tool; his career average is .314 (partly due to legs, but he would hit .300 even if slow).  Derek Jeter spent his career as a 70 HITter.

Robinson Cano has a gold-plated 70 HIT tool.


When you say 80, "plus-plus-plus," you mean that this particular weapon warps a baseball game.  Ichiro's hitting, in his prime, was 80.  If it was the playoffs, you had to avoid a situation where a key run was on third base with him at the plate, because you could not prevent his driving in the run.  

Randy Johnson's fastball was 80.  Rickey Henderson's speed was 80; you could not afford to walk him, so you centered pitches, so he hit home runs he shouldn't have hit.  When Rickey hit 28 homers in 1990, that was a warping of the normal course of baseball events; his 80 speed deflected his (and Oakland's) natural results on the field.

In 2001, the Mariners' bullpen was a true 80.  Lou Piniella managed a lot of games to that game-changing bullpen.  You hear a lot of talk about "six-inning games."  In 2001, the Mariners played them, night after night.

Felix' changeup is 80.

There is one (1) current major league hitter with an 80 HIT tool.  Do you know who it is?


In terms of power, Nick Swisher and Kyle Seager have 50 power.  Isn't that something, that our only good hitter of the last two years has 40-50 HIT and 50 PWR?  That gives you a little perspective...

Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Holliday have 60 PWR.  Nelson Cruz has 60-65 PWR.  Corey Hart has 60-65 PWR.   (Tony Blengino accuses Zduriencik of being fixated on HR's, implying that Zduriencik likes flashy numbers on the backs of baseball cards; it would be more accurate to say that Zduriencik chases inexpensive hitters who offer excellent power.  All of these Morse, Ibanez, Hart, etc players are on the "elite power" list, and they don't cost much.)

70 PWR is Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez, and ... Robinson Cano, who is #8 in all of baseball in SLG the last two years.  Stanton offers 80 potential.

Two players offer 80 power:  Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Braun.

Chris Davis had 80 power, just for one year, last year, so scouts have their eyes on him.  Jose Bautista used to have 80, but it's not 80 any more.


Get On With It!  :: Pink Floyd ::

The point is, the Seahawks' secondary is beyond the "80" grade.  It is outside the 20-80 system.

It's one thing for a single facet of a team's arsenal to warp a game; the Seahawks' pass defense has gotten to the point to where everything that happens in a football game relates, in some way, to it.

Carroll planned for Russell Wilson to throw for 103 yards, and that in fact occurred.  Pete Carroll was absolutely correct to play his offense the way that he did.  

In the 1973 Super Bowl, Bob Griese threw 8-for-11 for 88 yards and no interceptions, and the Dolphins won.  Not only did the Dolphins win that Super Bowl, 14-7, but they won it with absolutely no risk.  They won it mechanically.  They had a secondary similar to the Seahawks'.  For the 1972-1974 Dolphins, mistake avoidance was the correct strategy.

I hate that kind of super-stingy sports philosophy, but that doesn't mean it is never correct.  By a happy serendipity, this particular roster is bespoke-tailored to Pete Carroll's pusillanimous coaching philosophy.

Pete Carroll, from the first play to the last, underlined his pass defense.  He said, "This game is going to be about Drew Brees versus Earl Thomas," and then he engineered exactly that.  For example, any time a 1st-down run failed, and Brees had a 2nd-and-9, and both sides knew that a pass was next, then ... the drive was over.

The Seahawks' victory looked weird, because it was mechanical.  How often do you see mechanical victories in the NFL playoffs?  That's the first one you ever saw in Seattle, that's for sure.  Well, the 1990-1991 Huskies won some football games that way.


It's one thing for Rickey Henderson's speed to warp a baseball game, or Dikembe Mutumbo's shot-blocking to warp a basketball game.  It's a whole other thing for Mutombo's shot-blocking to make the outcome inevitable -- to where the coach can write a script around it, in the locker room, and then the script proceeds inexorably.

The game flow?  Pete Carroll knew that he could pole-axe the Saints, and they knew it, and Carroll simply had to avoid "botching" the execution.  He didn't botch it.  

Now the question is whether the Seahawks will have an "accident" against the 49'ers, or whether the execution will proceed on script.  (If a chess grandmaster wins 8, loses 1, and draws 1, the loss was an "accident.")


The Seahawks' pass defense is something very, very remarkable.  From opening kickoff, the enemy is caught in the coils of a boa constrictor, and it is desperately trying to convert 4th downs in the first quarter, is running counter-bubble screens between the tackles to 4th receivers, is trying anything to randomize the action and muddy the water.  Trying to avoid the script!

They changed the rules of basketball because Wilt Chamberlain had a "90" inside game on the 20-80 scale.  The Seahawks' pass defense is such that, if it continued to perform at this level for, say, five years, the NFL would change the rules against it.


Dr D




Is it Joe Maurer? Oft injured, not screaming fast or powerful but he is always among the league leaders in average. He must have the top raw hitting ability.


Mauer has been demoted to 70-75, on SSI, because of recent trendlines, but anybody who wants to put Joe Mauer or Ryan Braun at 80 will get no argument from Dr. D.  Good call Mojo.
Cabrera hits over .320 life, the bench for 80, and has been hitting .340 lately.  Considering how hard he swings the bat, well ....

4 in zero turnovers. They only got one. Well, they actually had two, but inexplicably the Seahawks brain trust didn't catch second one, clearly seen on instant replay, and throw down the review flag.
6 and in six penalties for 52 yards. This game may have turned out differently if the Seahawks had their typical 9 for 85 (or worse).


It won't take five years for the NFL to react. The league is very, very happy with a QB centric game and the 'grabby' nature of the Seahawks secondary has to be on the radar. I expect we will see a lot of defensive holding calls early Next season. if the increased penalties don't work, I expect some kind of minor rule change the next season. The NBA changed the hand-check rules very quickly once the Sonics exploited them and I expect a similar reaction from the NFL here.


Was to remove Percy Harvin from the game. They went after him in Saint fashion, and it almost paid off for them. If Harvin plays an entire game Sunday, we win. The Niners aren't going to throw anything at Wilson he hasn't seen and dealt with yet. But the Niners haven't seen the Hawks offense with Harvin (of course, neither have we).

Auto5guy's picture

Trying to think of the true 80 tools that have existed in football. Earl Campbell's power running. Barry Sander's cutting. John Elway's arm. I'm sure I'm missing a lot.
If the Legion of Boom is 80 as a unit then the 85-86 Bears were a an 80 as an entire defense. In my lifetime I've only ever seen one starting Super Bowl Quarterback pee his pants and sit himself on the bench in the first quarter. The LOB is smothering and maybe even something to dread but they don't inspire that level of intimidation yet.


when your 80 unit is the defensive backs, the intimidation factor falls much less on the quarterback than it does the receivers and sometimes the running backs. The QB may fear an interception, but even if it happens his body is still intact. When your 80 unit is linebackers and defensive linemen, the QB literally fears for his physical safety. Those Chicago Bear defenses you refer to were completely stifling in a way nobody other than perhaps the great Pittsburgh Steelers defenses. Both of those teams played in a different era, though, and the passing game was not near as dominant then as it is now.

Auto5guy's picture

A dominant secondary will cause a fear of embarrassment more than a fear of injury.
Still for true intimidation factor I would expect guys like Jimmy Graham to not spend the lead up week boasting of how great they're going to do and instead spend that week talking about how their ankle still isn't quite right or their hip is still iffy or their hammy is still a little tweaked from last week. I would expect to see opponents planting excuse seeds for the poor performance they know is coming.
Maybe that will start next season after this year has sunk in.
I don't remember anyone boasting of looking forward to Randy Johnson so they could show how good they were against him.


If ever there was the perfect roster for playing the Ground Chuck, this is it.
"We have to run hard, tackle, protect the football, kick it and make football plays" - paraphrase from the hundreds of Knox press conferences.....

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