So there I was, watching ALCS Game 4 and scrolling through my twitter feed when I stumbled across this:
When all else fails, there's always @TacoBell.— Taco Bell (@TacoBell) October 17, 2013
Oh wonderful, sponsored tweets. Keep scrolling.
It's Game 7 of the World Series. Two outs in the 9th. The bases are loaded. Tim McCarver asks Joe Buck if he's seen COCOON.— Eric Freeman (@freemaneric) October 17, 2013
Well now that's just silly, Eric. Do you really think that
Okay now HOLD ON A SECOND.
First of all, I've been enjoying this 17 day break from the Seattle Mariners very much, Mr. Schoenfield. It's been both enjoyable and educational watching baseball teams filled with talented players--obnoxious or not--vie for postseason glory in games where each pitch and each foul ball actually matter to the 40,000 plus fans watching the game in person.
And then you come in with this "reality" nonsense and say what really we all have been thinking for a long time and while you're probably right, and I realize you are saying this as an admitted Mariners fan, just...ppppppptttttppphhhhh.
I had to think about it for a minute, and after my brain calmed down from being assaulted with the Mariners in the middle of a high-stakes baseball game, it got me thinking. For one, this is ignoring the entire idea of a rebuild: that it's going to take a while to build like ninety-seven rookies into good baseball players. Which, at the end of the day, seems to me to be the main defense of what this little thought experiment is going to reveal below. Yes, we can't sub many Mariners on today's roster for their ALCS counterparts, but that doesn't mean that it won't be the case in two, three, four years.
But Schoenfield's point might be a good one to think about. I'm sold on half of the idea, and for maybe a different reason than what he is saying. One--it's probably time to give up on some of the pieces instead of including them in the building process, because they probably will never be starters on a playoff-level team. But two, the Mariners aren't built--or ready--for the postseason in 2013. And this should scare you for going into the 2014 season.
If core pieces with potential are held onto, all the better. But if the Mariners are rushed into the playoffs with a roster that might look different in two years because Nick Franklin is worse than Dustin Pedroia, then not better. No. Bad.
It's been said that Jack and the crew are trying to do whatever they can just to get into the playoffs next year, and with haste because of his job security. While growth amongst these guys certainly could--and will--be made by next September, I'm more afraid that these pieces that need time are going to be blown up and sent astray for fringe players who might be able to stand pat on an analyst's player comp list because that's what it takes to "get to the playoffs." The playoffs aren't the goal. The World Series is the goal.
Jack Z is looking at a door at the end of a hallway right now, and he really wants to go through said door. But what's actually behind it? After staring at it for twelve years, even I have days where I feel like it doesn't matter. This room is getting old, and the one on the other side seems pretty nice. But when you actually get there and open it, the joke's on you: all there is behind it is another door at the end of another long hallway. You're in Zelda motherfucker, except you can't look up the dungeon map on the internet because you don't know how to read. Also you're using Bing.
But alas, this might be a lot of sound and fury over nothing. Yeah, it is unfortunate that every spring the playoffs are almost sold from Seattle and then the reality breaks through, that no, it's going to have to be quite a bit different. In this, Schoenfield is right. And I agree.
So lets test it. We all have no idea what the Mariners are actually going to do this winter, but it can at least be a fun mental exercise to help us better think about who is doing what on the team. Why the hell not. First:
1. This obviously isn't the best method to analyze player performance. Comparing slash lines is not quite practicing sabermetrics. Half the Mariners spent time in Tacoma this year, so totals can't even really be compared. But if the goal is to see who starts over who, we might as well use the silly statistics that the people in charge of making those decisions use. It's a thought experiment, not detailed analysis.
2. It also clearly doesn't take into account that the Mariners are young and the Red Sox and Tigers aren't. I'm not going to take the easy road out and make a beard joke here, but you get the picture. It's about 2013.
3. I'm only using defense sparingly, mainly when offensive performance is close. The goal is to see what manager might start player x over player y, and while we have to use stats to understand who is good at what, you know most managers probably go with their gut and their eyeballs. So that's what I'll do here.
4. Eric Wedge made the outfield hard to keep track of this year (interpret that any way you wish), so I'm going to just go for the most used lineup out there rather than the September experimenting that happened, or whatever was written on the lineup card out of spring training.
5. In using the 2013 roster, it also doesn't factor in lineup changes for next year. You know, like how Jacoby Ellsbury will clearly be starting in CF for the M's in 2014, and that they will probably complement him with Joey Votto and Mike Trout on seven year contracts too, so hey, don't blame me when this projection completely goes out the window next September and the Mariners are ten games over the A's and Rangers.
Alright, on to the comps. Do any Mariners players start over their Tigers or Red Sox counterparts?
VERDICT: Not Zunino. Obviously aside from catcher splits, we don't need to compare numbers to know that a rookie isn't starting over these two postseason veterans. Now the exciting part? Taking into consideration how young he is--and that he should probably still be in AAA, he has more career BsR than either Avila or Salty, although the latter did have a good year on the basepaths. That's what accumulating negative stats will do to you. Heh. Losers.
VERDICT: Not Smoak. One one hand, I've still given up on Justin Smoak, on the other, this discrepancy isn't as huge as I thought it would be. We cringe at his 22.8% K rate but holy shit did you know that Mike Napoli is carrying a 32.4% himself? And while Smoak's -13.9 Def rating is pretty gross compared to Napoli's -0.6, Prince Fielder carried a -17.7 this year and hasn't scored in the single (still negative) digits since his 39-game rookie season. Granted, these are all new ratings just rolled out last month over at fangraphs, but we can still laugh. But it's still not a question over these two. Justin Smoak might feel broken sometimes, but you know what? At least we don't have to look at this:
VERDICT: Not Franklin. I know I said I was going to try and stick to the stats that MLB Tonight likes, but those folks do like defense, even though they don't know how to measure it. If his glove and arm matured a bit, I think an argument could be made for at least a more seasoned Franklin starting over Infante. It really comes down to the fact that Franklin is a) a rookie and b) strikes out all the time. Like, 27% of the time. Infante? 9%. Sorry, Officer Franklin. Get used to the warm embrace of that wooden bench.
|Jose Iglesias/Jhonny Peralta||.303/.303||.349/.358||.386/.457||3HR/11HR||29RBI/55RBI|
VERDICT: Not Miller, either.
I mean, yeah. Drew has the years and the numbers to back up his great, albeit inconsistent defensive strengths. But Iglesias is like Brendan Ryan who can hit well enough to justify a lineup spot and also he's younger so you can keep him around for a while. The good news is that Brad Miller is absolutely not out of the running here. As our third rookie so far, he's the closest to the pack and while he may not fit Schoenfield's 2013 ideal playoff roster, he seems like the surest case for a starting position on a future Mariners' roster we've seen yet. I'd start him over Drew, but that's because I like him and I'm tired of the Red Sox doing Red Sox things. I'm also not a manager of a baseball team.
VERDICT: Kyle Seager. There we go! Schoenfield's stipulation wasn't for the best of three teams, it was best over one of the teams. So this one is easy, even with Seager's September slump, and he was right. Middlebrooks isn't a great defender, and while Seager didn't have the best year with his glove, fangraphs put him at a 7.0 Def for 2012, and he's been consistently worth mid-3 fWAR next to Middlebrooks' 1.9 and .3 in the same space.
VERDICT: Nope. I'll have you know I seriously debated putting Endy Chavez in here, but we should probably just try and forget that ever happened.
VERDICT: For 2013 no but
On second thought, I'm going to just stop there and call this whole thing good. You were right, Mr. Schoenfield. Damn you, but you were right.
But again, here's the thing. We should be absolutely fine with the fact that Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, and Brad Miller wouldn't start for the Tigers or the Red Sox. The Tigers and Red Sox don't need them, but the Mariners do. At least in a few years, when they could very well be playoff-caliber players.
And the outfield is almost certainly going to change again, at the very least without one Raul Ibanez. And if for some insane reason he is brought back next year, the simple laws of physics and aging pretty much guarantee us that he is going to be gone sooner or later. If the M's indeed sign Ellsbury and another outfielder, there are two tentative holes on that list gone.
Comparing the 2013 Seattle Mariners to the 2013 Detroit Tigers and 2013 Boston Red Sox won't really give us much information about the 2014 Seattle Mariners, because those two teams won't be made up of the same players. So maybe just ignore everything I said and buy that playoff hype next year. What's the worst that could happen?