Two Years On
much sound and fury, no doubts there... signifying, what?


At Fangraphs, David Laurila did this entrance interview of Dipoto and how he would differ from Zduriencik.  Looking back with the advantage of 24 months' evidence into the hopper:


Jerry Dipoto has a plan. Importantly, he also has the autonomy to implement it. Free from the shackles of Anaheim, he’s now able to do his own thing, with his own people, in Seattle. That’s good news for Mariners’ fans.

Dipoto is doing more than simply replacing Jack Zduriencik as Seattle’s general manager. He’s enacting philosophical change. The erstwhile Angels GM is a former player with a scouting background, but he’s also one of the most analytically inclined front office executives in the game. The Mariners will be many things under Dipoto’s leadership; backwards isn’t one of them.

Dipoto shared his vision for the team during this week’s GM meetings in Boca Raton.


DiPoto on the organization’s change of philosophy: “The philosophy I’m bringing over here is pretty different. I respect Jack Zduriencik – he’s had a wonderful baseball career and I’m sure he’ll continue to have one – but we’ll do things differently than he did. We see things through a different lens. I’m not going to tell you exactly how, because then it’s no longer an advantage, but it is significantly different. Regarding [the Angels], it would be fair to say that this is a different environment for me.”


Welllllll ... it's fair to Zduriencik to point out that the M's won 87 and 76 games his last two years.  Compared to Dipoto's 86 and 78.  Few of us Denizens have the slightest doubt that Jerry Dipoto is new-school and that Jack Z was old-school.  But if you're Z, you are asking whether anybody has noticed the W/L column anyplace in this discussion.

What are the Grand Themes that Dipoto could not even hint at, for fear of blowing his strategic cover with the 2016-18 Texas Rangers?  I dunno, StatCast, exit velos off the bat, propietary defense, AAA stats evaluations ... we don't doubt they are there.  They have not shown up on the 25-man roster that the Mainframe can, um, Detect.


On having a philosophically aligned coaching staff: “I’ve worked with (manager) Scott Servais on and off for the last 15 years, and there’s a reason why he’s here. Scotty sees baseball the way I do. We have a different style and way, and we don’t always agree on everything, but I wouldn’t hire somebody who sees things through an entirely different lens, That wouldn’t be sensible.

“(Bench coach) Tim Bogar is similar. Tim is more quiet, very player-friendly; he’s a great relationship builder. But when it comes down to nuts and bolts, particularly understanding how team defense works, he is among the best I’ve ever met.

“(Third base coach) Manny Acta has a great background of understanding analytics and how to apply them on the field. He also has a great feel for the game as it develops. Edgar Martinez… just sign him up. I don’t know that you’re going to find a better, more prepared hitting coach than Edgar Martinez. The organization in general – we’re building it with the idea that we want everybody to have similar baseball tenets, yet have slightly different views.”


Servais sees baseball as Dipoto does, which is no doubt "very intelligently."  That is ONE of the critical skills of a sports head coach, one that is necessary but not sufficient.  At SSI we did not like the limp and lame way the Seattle Mariners finished the 2017 season, particularly after the Houston Astros informed them that the M's were second-class citizens.

But Pete Carroll didn't win the Super Bowl in his first year with the Jets, either, nor in his second year.


On implementing a run-prevention model: “We see ourselves as a run-prevention club. You can create a lot of advantage playing good defense. We also see our overall team defense as our biggest area in need of improvement. We want to get more athletic and more defensive-oriented in the positions where we can.

“[Statcast] creates a different target list in what we’re looking for in free agency, and in trades. A few players have crawled up my leaderboard of appealing players. You still have to be able to play some offense in order to play every day, but we’re learning more and more about [defensive] value, because we’re able to carve the data.

“The unique thing about defensive data is that it’s very hard, in a one-year sample, to truly define what it means. You need sample size. Is it years of data? Probably. But we’re to the point now where we have some real numbers, and that’s why we’re starting to see trends. Player value is going to change as a result.

“Most teams have a run-prevention model, it’s a matter of how much they subscribe to it. Most of it is going to be predicated on ballpark. You’re much more likely to build a run-prevention model in a park like ours, or Dodger Stadium, or the Big A, than you would in say Baltimore. It’s a different model.”

On the Mariners’ earlier, unsuccessful defensive model: “It was fairly short-lived. The information available to us now is much greater than it was back in 2008-2009. The Mariners did approach things from a run-prevention model, but they did it with less information, and when it didn’t reach the optimal results quickly, they went in a different direction. I think we’re going to be a little more committed to it, because we have more information telling us that it’s a viable animal.”


One interesting little thing we had been studying this week -- actually Bill James had been studying -- is that athletic rookies tend to have better careers.  You wonder to what extent Dipoto is walking into Serendipity here.  This may not even be a new idea; in the 1980's James was positing that "Old Players' Skills" -- pitch stalking, walks, power -- didn't age well.

Per Fangraphs, the M's finished #12 of 30 teams defensively, "racking up" +5.1 defensive runs saved over the course of a season - half a win.  In 2015, Zduriencik's last year, it was -24 runs.  So, as has been obvious, the M's have covered a lot more Safeco turf than they used to.

Baseball Prospectus rated the 2017 M's at #24 overall, albeit with a .717 "defensive efficiency," which corresponds to a .283 BABIP.  Baseball Prospectus also had the 2015 M's at #24 despite a much worse .702 defensive efficiency, so BP sees some "leak" or some bad luck (such as line drive DE) in the 2017 results.

Perhaps next article up, we'll have a chance to get into Dipoto's thoughts on Stottlemyre and his Control-the-Zone philosophy.


Dr D




i hate those Dipoto quotes.  There’s a Gnostic sort of claim to them, which I distrust.  


0% challenge, 100% interest piqued.  ... you *or* Terry, a bit of expansion on that would be interesting.

I know what Gnostic means to me -- a Secret Society type of elitism that is vague enough to make me suspect that the substance isn't quite what the mystics would like you to believe that it is -- but not sure what it means to youse.

Come to think of it, James would politely react the same way to a sort of implied 'mystique', wouldn't he?  If you've got an idea, lay it on the table.


Not trying to bang on Jerry Dipoto, either.  He's obviously a very intelligent analyst who is in command of his subject.  But:  yeah.


Paraphrasing: “ I am not going to tell you the secret knowledge I have because it is so secret that I would lose the advantage.”

As if only Dipoto and his initiates can understand the mysterious underlying truth Of the baseball universe.

tjm's picture

. . . on the web or elsewhere you can go to get criticism of a "Gnostic sort of claim.. . ." Love it so much. And agree. I like DiPoto but this is a deep and worthy critique. Thx Mo.

Rickm82's picture

Wish there was a Facebook like button for every awesome comment. I just want you all to know I read and love your stuff, without fighting technology to post something that reads terrible. This site doesn’t like the iPad much. The fault is primarily Apple’s iPad upgrades. It’s frustrating when improvements make everything more difficult. 

Moe, I feel your pain.

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