Fixing the Mariners OBP

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OBP might be old news in the sabermetrics community, but have the Mariners gotten the memo? Let’s look at OBP’s for all 2014 postseason teams, plus Seattle:

Nationals- .321
Cardinals- .320
Dodgers- .333
Pirates- .330
Giants- .311
Orioles- .311
Tigers- .331
Angels- .322
Royals- .314
Athletics- .320

Mariners- .300

Out of all these teams, only 3 were below the .320 mark. The Orioles had a lower OBP, but supplemented it with the third highest SLG in the MLB. The Royals and Giants were Wild Card teams, and while they both played well in October, neither clipped the 90-win mark in the regular season.

The Mariners— with their limping .300 OBP— never competed offensively with the best ballclubs of 2014.

OBP tells us how often a player/team didn’t make an out. It’s an entirely simple concept: you don’t want to be thrown out, because that limits your chances to score runs.

For reference, here’s the Fangraphs “Rule-of-Thumb” OBP chart:

OBP

Now, let’s look at the potential 2015 FA’s and trade targets, viewing their OBP’s… (2014 OBP / career OBP):

Nelson Cruz- .333/.328
Hanley Ramirez- .369/.373
Billy Butler- .323/.359
Alex Rios- .311/.323
Matt Kemp- .346/.349
Yoenis Cespedes- .296/.316
Marlon Byrd- .312/.333
Ben Zobrist- .354/.354
Justin Upton- .342/.354
Jason Heyward- .351/.351

Those numbers tell us a few things. First, it’s easy to see why the Mariners are rumored to be “aggressively” pursuing Hanley Ramirez. Trade targets of Kemp, Upton, Heyward, and Zobrist all seem to be worthwhile pursuits.

However Rios, Byrd, and Butler make you give pause. They’re certainly in decline. But they’re still upgrades over the Mariners worst offenders.

Nelson Cruz is hard to gauge. He’s going to be paid for his power obviously, but is a $60 million price tag worth his slightly above-average OBP? Maybe.

And Cespedes, hmmmm. His 2014 OBP was lower than the Mariners as a whole. That’s not sexy. His 22 homers are nice, but hard to rationalize paying good money and trade pieces for.

For fun, I wondered what kind of difference one of these players might’ve had on the 2014 Mariners. So I plugged in Hanley Ramirez’s 512 PA stats from 2014 into the Mariners team stats. I subtracted 512 PA’s of a combined Corey Hart and Kendrys Morales (let’s name this player Corendrys Moralehart). This raised the team’s OBP from .300 to .308, getting us much closer to the Wild Card bracket of on-base production.

Finally, as I’d love to see Ichiro Suzuki back in Seattle as a 4th outfielder, we should include his OBP numbers to this list: .328/.360

Hopefully the young Mariners will continue improving at the plate as well. Players like Brad Miller and Mike Zunino should have better numbers in 2015. Austin Jackson and Logan Morrison should produce higher OBP’s than last year, and even though Michael Saunders is expected to be dealt, his .341 OBP in 261 PA shouldn’t be overly hard to replace (due to small number of PA’s).

With two solid acquisitions this winter, plus Ichiro!, and an uptick in youthful production, the Mariners could easily find themselves with satisfactory OBP.

And that would be a beautiful thing.

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A Hypothetical “All-In” Plan for 2015

hanley

With today’s news of the Mariners’ interest in Hanley Ramirez, I began thinking about how Seattle might go “all-in” and spend big this winter.

For awhile, I’ve thought the Mariners would acquire Victor Martinez and a cheaper right-handed 4th outfielder. But with discussions of Ramirez out there, it makes you wonder if Seattle is going after two big bats, none of whom would be full-time DH’s.

Ramirez wouldn’t be Seattle’s everyday shortstop, nor their right fielder. Rather, Ramirez could be Seattle’s infield utility man and part-time DH. Combined with an impact right fielder, this could keep their players well-rested with a rotating DH. Plus it’d be an insurance option if any of the infielders got injured. (Like, who’s playing 1B if LoMo’s knees give him problems?)

By acquiring Rameriz, Seattle might also feel comfortable moving one of their young shortstops. I’d suspect Chris Taylor gets traded before Brad Miller, but who knows. And with reports of Michael Saunders on the trading block, the Mariners could haul a nice pickup for those two names.

For the sake of fun, here’s a coordinated 5 move plan that Seattle could do to go “All-In”:

  • Hanley Ramirez, Free Agent Signing, INF Utility and Rotating DH, 5/$95m

If you compare Ramirez to Victor Martinez, you end up with a push. Martinez looks to be more of a pure hitter, with fantastic numbers last year. Yet V-Mart is 36 years old, has his own injury history, and can’t play in the field besides occasional 1B. Both players appear to cost around the same amount of money.

  • Matt Kemp, traded for Taylor and Saunders, RF and Rotating DH, 5/$75m

The Dodgers opening day roster will likely look much different than 2014. And although they would have no need for Saunders, they could flip him easily, or perhaps this could be a 3 team trade. Also, Seattle could send a bullpen arm as well. Dodgers kick in $30m of Kemp’s salary, etc etc. Perhaps a long shot, but having a serviceable RF from Kemp (or a similar impact bat) could really fill out Seattle’s roster nicely.

Imagine the Mariners making a World Series run with Ichiro on the roster. He’s 156 hits away from the 3,000 mark, which would be great publicity and fan fodder for the Mariners. (Likely needs two seasons to reach the milestone, though.) He looks to be a fine 4th outfielder option. At age 41, he posted a .324 OBP last year, with average defensive showings.

  • Joe Beimel, Free Agent Signing, Lefty Specialist Relief Pitcher, 2/$4m

I don’t know if that contract dollar amount is a decent projection or not. Nor do I know if Beimel will be of any significant target of the Mariners. But they will need a lefty specialist in their bullpen, so why not.

  • Chris Young, Free Agent Signing, Starting Pitcher, 2/$10+

Again, not sure about that number. Young could easily land someplace else, and the Mariners won’t fight for him. But if Seattle is gonna go “All-In”, they ought to have an insurance option for their starting pitching. Signing Young, or someone like him, for the bottom of the rotation could let Taijuan Walker or Roenis Elias pitch in Tacoma, ready to come up in the case of injury or poor performance from the other starters. Also, Young is reported to be a whiz at studying scouting reports, which is a nice skill to have in the clubhouse.

Sounds good, right? Well I’m sure that depends on your preferences. But what does the total price tag look like? I recently wrote about the Mariners 2015 budget, with a payroll already at $95m. So now…. Let’s minus $3m for Saunders, add $19m for Hanley, $15m for Kemp, $3m for Ichiro, $2m for Beimel , $5m for Young….

And that comes out to……. $136 million.

My opinion: The Mariners can do this, they should do this, and they will do this.

Surely there’s plenty you could criticize in that plan. And if you’re gonna raise payroll by $40 million, you’d hope not to bring so much injury risk aboard. Yet the point here is the idea of Hanley Ramirez specifically, a rotating DH, with a big payroll increase, but not so much the actual names of the other players.

Because in 2015, I want to see Felix Hernandez pitching in October. I want to see Kyle Seager blasting one into the left field seats at Safeco in the autumn air. And yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing Carson Smith strikeout Mike Trout with that nasty slider in October either.

This team is ready. Will the fireworks begin this winter? I’m getting the feeling they will.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Dear Jack Zduriencik—Go Get Victor Martinez!

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Dear Jack Zduriencik,

Before you came to Seattle, we had a DH named Martinez. He played until he was 41 years old. Only in his final season did he slow down.

Victor Martinez might not be Edgar Martinez—hey, this isn’t 1990’s baseball either—but V-Mart is an exceptional hitter. He’s a true talent. His skills of putting the ball in play and not striking out are techniques that our young hitters need to witness, day in, day out.

When we buy elite players, this is what they need to bring to the club: Exemplary talent.

Will V-Mart decline over the next four years? Maybe. But look at Edgar.

Edgar Martinez ages 36-39:
36: OPS 1.001
37: OPS 1.002
38: OPS .966
39:  OPS .888

Maybe it’s unfair to compare these two, but I’m doing it anyway!

Remember, the Detroit Tigers are vulnerable. They ought not plug up the DH slot, because Miguel Cabrera might need it. The Tigers would be better off getting Melky Cabrera or Pablo Sandoval.

Seriously Jack, don’t overthink this one. Just go get Victor Martinez. Give him his 4 years and however many millions it takes. Whatever you did to get Robinson Cano here, do it again.

Because Felix Hernandez deserves to pitch in the World Series. And Victor Martinez appears to be the answer.

Sincerely,
The Seatown Mariners Blog

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Top Ten Off-Season Targets

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The 2015 baseball season has begun! For the Mariners, the winter objective is to find a half-dozen more wins. Here’s my list of the Top Ten targets for Seattle. (Mind you, this team will only add 2 or 3 players, so rest assured at least 7 of these premonitions will be wrong.)

1) Victor Martinez – DH and occasional 1B

With new concerns over Miggy’s health, it’s unlikely the Tigers offer Victor Martinez a four-year contract. [My Tigers prediction: Porcello to Baltimore for Davis, V-Mart and Scherzer walk, while signing Shields.] There’s talk of the White Sox gunning for V-Mart as well, but I don’t see it. I see Seattle taking Martinez for 4/$60m, and if they’re smart, they avoid a no-trade clause.

2) Matt Kemp – DH and occasional RF

Kemp silenced his critics by bashing the crap out of baseballs last year. But his defense is pretty bad. For the Dodgers, this is unworkable. Simply Kemp’s defense neutralizes his offense, making his value to the team somewhere around net-zero. So while the Dodgers won’t want to part with Kemp’s righty power bat, they really should. It’s also believed that the Dodgers won’t pursue Hanley Ramirez, which means LA needs a shortstop. As the Mariners have two cheap young shortstops with 3-4 WAR potential (plus another prospect in the minors), I can see Kemp coming to Seattle with $30m paid on his contract, for Miller or Taylor and a bullpen arm.

3) Michael Cuddyer – DH and 1B Platoon

Many teams will stay away from Cuddyer, due to his injuries, age, and Coors Field stats. But for a player who can be signed for 2-3 years at around $10m AAV, Cuddyer is a good deal for the Mariners.  His lifetime .347 OBP coupled with his righty power bat would be a nice pickup for Seattle if their budget is of concern. And with the Mariners as a contender the next few seasons, Cuddyer should be interested in coming here.

4) Alex Rios – RF Platoon and 4th Outfielder

Rios is an aging player who’s value is in question. He’ll likely sign for a short-term contract, around 1/$8m, with hopes of proving he’s still an above-replacement-value player. If Seattle were to sign Victor Martinez (which I view highly likely), Rios could be a fine complimentary piece for the 2015 roster.

5) Billy Butler – DH and occasional 1B

Like Rios, Bulter needs to prove he’s an above-replacement-level player. As a primary DH who only hit 9 homers in a full season last year, it’s hard to expect much from “Country Breakfast”. His OBP is good, and he puts the ball in play. He’s certainly not the solution to Lloyd McClendon’s desired “Big Bopper”, but could be a complimentary piece if the M’s find their Bopper elsewhere on the field. Butler should be cheap enough, perhaps 2/$12m with incentives, and could bounce back as a 2 WAR hitter.

6) Khris Davis – LF

The Brewers have way too many righty batters in their lineup. Davis has pop, but also swings at everything. Under team control until 2020, he could be a good fit for Seattle, batting in the 6th slot. A trade of Ackley or Saunders and perhaps a bullpen arm could get this done (and save Seattle some money).

7) Allen Craig – RF and 1B

What happened to Craig last season is sad. In 1500 previous MLB at-bats, Craig was a solid .800 OPS hitter. Then he imploded last year, producing a .594 OPS. While I don’t know enough about swing mechanics to make a judgment, I do know that his BABIP was unrealistically low in 2014. In fact, his BABIP was a solid .100 points below his career rate, and therefore his batting average was .100 points below his career numbers. Since Craig is signed for the next few years at a team friendly price— plus he bats right handed, and plays RF and 1B— I’d take a chance on him. As Boston is looking for pitching and left handed bats, one can imagine trade scenarios.

8) Chris Young – SP

While the Mariners don’t appear to want to pay much for another starting pitcher, we shouldn’t rule out the option of the M’s trading Taijuan Walker or Roenis Elias. (Of course, Walker isn’t going anywhere unless a big name is coming back.) But for Young, he’s a flyball pitcher who needs employment in a pitcher’s park. This limits his market, and if the Padres or likewise don’t make him an offer, he might be available to Seattle for cheap.

9) Torii Hunter - RF Platoon and 4th Outfielder

It’s kinda fun to imagine Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter all playing for Seattle within one year of Lloyd McClendon becoming our skipper. Hunter would be on a short-term contract (1/$10m?), and with right handed pop and experience, he’s right up Seattle’s alley.

10) Giancarlo Stanton – RF

Oh no I didn’t! While the Marlins don’t wanna lose Stanton, he nonetheless has a ticking clock in Miami. Every day they don’t trade him, his return value goes down. My guess is that the Marlins try to contend this year, and if they’re not in it by July, Stanton becomes the blockbuster trade at deadline. So, would the Mariners clean out their farm for 1.5 years of Stanton? That’s a definite maybe. The Mariners will be serious contenders in 2015 and 2016, and a Cano-Stanton-Seager punch is what dreams are made of.

I know, I know.

Now, for the big names not on this list. Here’s why I left them off….
Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera: PED users that ownership doesn’t want to be involved with.
Yasmany Tomas: Too big a contract for an unproven player. Tomas will certainly go to a large market team with lots of payroll and a weak farm system.
Hanley Ramirez: Unless he agrees to become a DH, not worth his price tag for Seattle.
Scherzer, Lester, Shields: Sorry, we just aren’t signing any $20m pitchers.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

Alex Rios: The Mariners 4th Outfielder?

rios

Jack Zdurenciek wakes up every morning wondering who he can find to hit clean up for the Mariners 2015 roster… Good luck, buddy!

For the sake of fun, let’s assume Victor Martinez comes to Seattle on a bloated contract, and the Mariners also resign Chris Young. This leaves one additional hole on the 25-man roster: a right-handed 4th outfielder.

The pickings are slim. Melky Cabrera is a free agent, but he’s a previous PED user—which ownership will not like—and Melky’s reportedly looking for a 5-year contract, something the Mariners shouldn’t be interested in.

Michael Cuddyer can play some outfield, but he’s mostly a first baseman (at age 36). His bat certainly looks great recently, but those numbers are inflated from Coors Field. Not to mention Cuddyer only played 49 games last year due to injury.

Enter Alex Rios. As MLBTradeRumors suggests, Rios might be obtainable for a 1-year $8 million deal. As Rios has never played post-season baseball, it makes sense that he’d accept a short term deal with a contending team.

Now, Rios comes with concerns. He’s a career “20-homer guy” who only hit 4 homers last year. His defense has declined to the point of slipping just below “average” (albeit not horrible like Matt Kemp). Rios doesn’t walk much either, leaving his OBP lower than you’d hope.

Yet Rios might still fit the Mariners reasonably well. For both 2013 and 2014, his OPS is just shy of .900 against left handed pitching. As a fourth outfielder/platoon, that’s a luxurious option to have. (And if Dustin Ackley struggles, or Michael Saunders gets hurt, Alex Rios is a good guy to have around.) Rios’ speed is still good, and his veteran experience will be welcomed on a young team.

For a one-year commitment, Seattle hasn’t much to lose. Their farm is stocked with talent moving up, so there’s no reason to give out long contracts to anyone but superstars.

Rios is a low-risk, buy-low option. Perhaps he has a rebound season, or perhaps he’s a player of replacement level value. Nobody knows. But for a short contract—at the market price of one win—I say why not?

Hypothetical “Platoon” Lineup vs. Lefty Starters
Austin Jackson, CF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Victor Martinez, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Chris Taylor/Willie Bloomquist, SS

Now think back to early 2014′s platoon lineups! Any improvement?

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

2015 Budget: Enough Money for Victor Martinez or Matt Kemp?

green-sports-mariners

The Mariners 2014 opening day payroll was $92 million. Due to mid-season acquisitions—plus incentives paid to Chris Young—the Mariners actually spent $107 million last year.

Now as we look to 2015, let’s pull out the calculator and see what the numbers look like:

Contracts: ~$65 million total
Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Hisashi Iwakuma, Fernando Rodney, and a few smaller pieces.

Arbitration: ~$25 million total
Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson, Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Logan Morrison, and bullpen guys.

League Minimums: ~$5 million total
Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and bullpen guys.

That starts us with a $95 million payroll, give or take, for 2015 . Now, if the Mariners allow payroll to again meet last year’s level of $107m, that gives GM Jack Zduriencik  $12 million to work with this winter.

$12 million.

Is Victor Martinez or Matt Kemp available for that kind of money? Not a chance. If the Mariners were to keep within this expenditure limit, they’ll have to look at less glamorous candidates such as Billy Butler, Alex Rios, and Michael Cuddyer.

To compete for Victor Martinez, Seattle will likely bid closer to $20 million for 2015, with multiple years of contract in tow. Kemp’s contract is $21 million per year, and who the heck knows what a deal to land him would look like. As I wrote earlier, with the former Rays GM Andrew Friedman now running the Dodgers, they’d surely love to clean the books of Kemp’s contract. You can envision a salary dump scenario. But do the M’s hold their nose and do it?

To most people’s thinking, the Mariners need two righty impact bats and another starter. It’s well known that the M’s want a cleanup hitter (DH most likely), but having an additional righty corner outfielder would be excellent. Someone like Alex Rios might be a fine compliment to a Martinez signing, assuming he’s cheap enough.

But of course, addressing these needs gets expensive. Simply adding Martinez or Kemp blows the budget well past 2014 spending levels, putting us into $115 million range. If you added another $10 million for a starter and a decent righty outfield bat, we get to the neighborhood of $125 million dollars.

The Mariners did have a payroll of $117 million in 2008. That was the highest payroll Seattle ever saw. (We lost 101 games that year, fired a GM, fired a manager, and prefaced the season by trading away Adam Jones and Chris Tillman for Erik Bedard…. Ugh.) That following winter, Jack Zduriencik became GM, and payroll began plummeting.

Six years later and the Mariners are now ready to ante up. But the question remains: How far will this ownership go? Will they give the green light to a $125 million dollar team? Or do they allow only a modest increase, with a cap of $110 million? $115?

We learned this year that winning should never be wasted. This is a very good team that’s ready to play baseball in October. Time to spend the money and make it happen.

Do it for Felix.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

New Dodgers GM… What It Means for the Mariners

simpsons-sabermetrics

The Dodgers hired a new GM today, Andrew Friedman. Friedman was previously the Tampa Bay Rays GM, and had great success in rebuilding their team on a tight budget. Of course, the decade-old Moneyball mentality is nothing new for baseball, but it’s new for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers are a large market team, but they’ve over-leveraged themselves with payroll. Due to a conflict with Time Warner, their TV revenue will be cut next year. Also, due to the payroll luxury tax rules, the Dodgers will be penalized far heavier this year if they exceed the cap again. Thus, the Dodgers have been outspoken about bringing their payroll down— which hit $240 million in 2014— to below $190 million.

There’s perhaps nobody better to do that than Andrew Friedman. (Last year’s Rays payroll was around $75 million.)

So, why is this of interest to Mariners fans?

The Dodgers and the Mariners have many areas of compatibility concerning trades. Where the Mariners need an outfielder, the Dodgers have six of them. Where the Dodgers need bullpen help, the Mariners have plenty of arms to deal. And if the Dodgers need to slim payroll, well the Mariners are now ready to up their payroll.

Now, if you were hoping the Mariners would trade for Scott Van Slyke (I was), this new reality makes that transaction quite unlikely. Van Slyke has 4 years left of team control. However, if you’re scared about Matt Kemp donning a Seattle uniform, get more frightened.

Matt Kemp makes about $20 million dollars a year. So does Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. You can bet that Andrew Friedman would love any of those three dropped from his payroll ASAP. However, Ethier and Crawford will be tough to move. Perhaps the Dodgers eat half of their salaries and move them. Regardless, the Mariners only have interest in Kemp, for his right-handed power bat.

If the Mariners make an offer to take Kemp’s full salary, and send LA a cheap bullpen arm or two, there’s a good possibility Friedman takes the deal. The Mariners have made it clear they want a cleanup hitter to slot between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. There aren’t many options for that criteria, and if Victor Martinez stays in Detroit, you can envision the Mariners paying up for Kemp.

(And, after reading the recent news of Mariners ownership’s disdain for PED users, there’s good reason to believe Nelson Cruz or Melky Cabrera won’t see offers from Seattle.)

Of course, I could be dead wrong about all this.

We’ll know soon enough.

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Keep up with us on Twitter: @Seatown_Mariner

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