Posted tagged ‘Seattle Mariners’

The MVP Races


First, please stop by Seattle Sports Central to check out my new post on the future of the Mariners.

Now, let’s turn to the MVP race, following the same format as the last time, by looking at the race today, the race at season’s end, and my picks.


1. Curtis Granderson
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Jose Bautista

Season’s End:
1. Dustin Pedroia
2. Curtis Granderson
3. Justin Verlander

My Picks:
1. Jose Bautista
2. Justin Verlander
3. Dustin Pedroia

Thoughts: I think that Granderson’s Yankee success would put him ahead at the moment, giving they lead the AL East, and he is the team’s only candidate. I think the Sox will win the division by season’s end, so that will drop him to number two. Pedroia strikes me as the Sox best pick, and he has put a number of key late-game hits that are important in creating an award-winning narrative. I think Verlander will carry the Tigers to the playoffs, and I was very tempted to make him my overall pick. Unfortunately, Bautista is again being forgotten, and he is the best hitter in baseball this year.


1. Justin Upton
2. Prince Fielder
3. Ryan Braun

Season’s End:
1. Justin Upton
2. Prince Fielder
3. Roy Halladay

My Picks:
1. Justin Upton
2. Ryan Braun
3. Matt Kemp

Thoughts: Justin Upton is having a great year on a surprising division leader. He cruises to the MVP if the Diamondbacks hold on, and giving the Giants’ bats, I think they will. Next come a pair of Brewers. Fielder has more home runs and RBI’s, and he could easily win the award. I think Braun is the better overall player. Kemp has had a fantastic year on an obscene team. I think he deserves an extra vote or two just for playing well on a team “owned” by Frank McCourt.

There are the MVP races. I am much more confident about the NL than the AL. The AL is especially fluid this year, and it could go a thousand different directions. Next up, a review of the book Strike Five.


A New Gig


I am now doing some occasional posting over at Seattle Sports Central. I write about the Mariners, which is often a depressing topic. But if you are interested, please wander over and check out my first post, an early look back at the Doug Fister trade. I will still post here as well; please stop back by toward the end of the week to see a book review, and eventually I will do a look at the MVP races, too.

Lee vs. Halladay


Two days ago, the Philadelphia Phillies traded their ace, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners as part of a three team trade that netted Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays.  Which is the better pitcher going forward?  Clearly Halladay has been the better pitcher, but who should you count on next year and the year after?  Let’s break these pitchers down to see what we might expect.

To this point, each pitcher has won one Cy Young Award, Halladay in 2003 and Lee in 2008. Lee also had a 4th place finish in 2005, while Halladay has 4 other top 5 finishes. Lee has a career ERA+ of 109, while Halladay’s is 133. Again, Halladay has been better. So what? To start let’s look at similar pitchers.

Halladay, currently 32, has most similar pitchers Tim Hudson, Mike Mussina, Bret Saberhagen, Dizzy Dean, and Don Newcombe. In contrast, Lee, currently 31, has most similars Denny Neagle, Charles Nagy, Mark Mulder, John Burkett, and Schoolboy Rowe. Halladay’s list is certainly better, but it has some very troubling implications. At age 32, Hudson‘s career began to be derailed by injuries. Injuries crushed Saberhagen‘s career by age 31. By age 32, Dean was out of baseball. Newcombe was last effective at age 31, before alcohol swallowed his career. Only Mussina had a career that prospered at an age greater than 32, as he remained effective until his retirement at 39. Despite Halladay’s track record, warning signs exist. His career was marked by injuries in 2004 and 2005, and since then he has averaged 232 innings. A trip to the weaker hitting NL East should help lengthen his career, though he is also moving from the 23rd best hitter’s park to the 12th. With Halladay, I would expect a steep dropoff in the next couple of years.

Cliff Lee is trickier to predict. The similar pitchers tended not to last into their 30’s, but Lee has no injury history. He is only 31, and his FIP has consistently outperformed his xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching). That is, projections have consistently underestimated his performance. Weight seems to be placed on his poor 2007, but it seems to be the aberration. His ERA+ dipped 30 points from 2006 to 2007, while his BB/9 and HR/9 spiked. 2008 and 2009 have been his best seasons, though he spent have of 2009 in a hitter’s park. Now he is going to a pitcher’s park with one of the best fielding teams in the major leagues. Lee is very likely to have an exceptional 2010, and he will only be the Mariners #2 starter, behind Felix Hernandez. Beyond that, I don’t know. His career post-2010 is contingent on where he spends 2011 and beyond.

So who should you like going forward? I expect Halladay to get a brief NL boost, but I similarly expect injuries and heavy usage to take a toll on him. While he will likely be very good in 2010, I worry about him through the rest of his contract extension. Lee, in contrast, should fill out his 1-year contract very well. Beyond that, too many variables remain open to say what will happen in 2011 and beyond.

What do you think? Who is the safer bet going forward?

Resigning Ken Griffey, Jr.


Ken Griffey, Jr. has reportedly re-signed with the Seattle Mariners for a contract roughly equivalent to that which he made last season.  His contract last year had a base salary of $2 million, and he made $3.15 million with incentives. According to Fangraphs, Griffey was worth 0.2 Wins Above Replacement last season, which they say is worth approximately $700,000. (This is derived from the minimum salary of $400,000. I will do a post soon on the concept of replacement level that will get into this point a little more.) This number is in line with recent performance, as he accounted for 0.2 WAR in 2007 and 0.4 in 2008. So what would it take for the Griffey deal to be a worthwhile investment?

Let us start with a series of starting points in order to approach the question:

    1. Griffey’s signing uses up one roster spot that could be given to another player.
    2. The player replaced would have to be paid at least $400,000.
    3. Griffey, then, must be worth at least $1.6 million more than this hypothetical other player in order to be a worthwhile investment.
    4. In order to be worth $1.6 million more than his hypothetical replacement, Griffey would need to contribute 0.4 WAR more than his replacement.

      What is the likelihood that this fourth point will come to pass? For starters, Griffey has not contributed more than 0.5 WAR (0.1 for the replacement player + 0.4 to justify Griffey’s salary) since 2005. Only twice since 2002 has he played that well. Griffey contributing 0.5 WAR, then, seems nearly impossible.

      To consider the impact fully, we also need to get a better sense of what is being given up. Last season, the Mariners had 24 players on their roster at some point in the season who were earning the league minimum. How did those players do?

      Gutierrez 5.9 Feierabend N/A Tuiasosopo 0
      Morrow 0.2 Jimenez N/A Halman N/A
      Wilson 0.5 Vargas 0.4 Carp 0.4
      Olson -0.8 LaHair N/A Vega N/A
      Rowland-Smith 1.5 White 0.7 Jakubauskas 0
      Aardsma 1.9 Johnson 0.4 Manuel N/A
      Lowe 1.3 Hernandez N/A Kelley 0
      Hannahan 0.6 Thomas N/A French -0.2

      Treating all N/A’s as 0 (they did not appear in any games for the Mariners last season), these 24 players averaged 0.53 WAR, more than Griffey achieved by himself.  0.5 WAR translates to $2 million.  If this is the true baseline, Griffey would need to be a 1WAR player to be worth his salary.  (That underestimates things slightly.  If Griffey played well enough to be worth 1.0 WAR, some of his incentives would surely kick in, meaning that he would need to be even better.) If Griffey repeats his performance from this year and minimum salary players repeated theirs, Griffey would represent an opportunity cost of $2.8 million ($1.6 million needed to justify his salary + $1.2 million worse than his likely replacement). That is, Griffey, doing better than he likely will next season, would cost the Mariners the salary equivalent of 7 players making the major league minimum.

      Truth be told, this is all underestimating the negative impact of Griffey. Unless he is able to generate a great deal of revenue that has no connection to his playing ability, he also hurts the team by producing less wins. As a rule, teams that win more draw more fans and make more money. Griffey keeps that from happening. To sum up, this signing makes no sense, hurts the Mariners, and will contribute to the deterioration of Griffey’s deservedly fabulous legacy.