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Chuck Armstrong Doesn't Understand Baseball, Probability

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Update: the more I think about it, the more I think I'm misinterpreting Armstrong's quote. So uh. Whoops. The main point is still true, though.

From today's issue of Pravda:

"In my 23 years, I have never ever seen anything like this," Armstrong said. "We saw it the other way in 2001. I mean, you have to ask yourself, 'How did the Mariners win 116 games that season with that roster, compared to this roster?' This is just as inexplicable the other way."

in·ex·pli·ca·ble [in-ek-spli-kuh-buhl, in-ik-splik-uh-buhl] 
adjective
not explicable; incapable of being accounted for or explained.

I find that the two seasons are quite the opposite of inexplicable. Explicable, you might say. The 2001 Mariners had everything. Good pitching, an offense loaded with people capable of getting on base, a more relevant sort of chemistry, and one of the greatest defenses anyone's ever seen. 116 wins might've been a little excessive - their Pythagorean record was a way more pathetic 109-53 - but that team was terrific, and anyone who fancies himself a decent analyst would be mesmerized by the amount of talent on the roster. Maybe not by the raw star power, but good teams aren't built on star power; they're built on ability, and the 2001 Mariners had it in spades. That team was destined to go places, and when you look back on it today, it's easy to see why.

The 2008 Mariners, meanwhile, don't have everything, and were never alleged to have everything, at least not by people who know stuff. They were built around a talented pitching staff, but pitching staffs are notoriously fragile, and when you don't support them with offense or defense you're just asking for agony. The Opening Day roster was littered with risks and collapse candidates, and while most intelligent people expected something better than this, they still issued warnings that a team-wide breakdown was a distinct possibility. Let's not pretend that the warnings weren't there. There were legitimate reasons to see every single one of these individual player performances coming, and so while the team's current record comes as a surprise, it doesn't come as a shock. 

When people try to project how a team will do, narrowing it down to a particular W/L record is a gross oversimplification. Good analysts project a range of possible outcomes, and anyone worth his salt knew coming into the year that the Mariners were a low- to mid-80s win team with way more downside than upside. This kind of performance, then, has long been a known possibility. It isn't inexplicable, and the ease with which it can be reasonably explained strikes me as rather damning.

Ordinarily this wouldn't be that big of a deal. So the president of an organization doesn't really understand the organization's product. So what? I'm pretty sure the president of my company doesn't know the first thing about taste receptor technology (I'm also pretty sure he doesn't read this website). That's not his job. The president's job is to help make the organization popular and profitable, and in that respect Armstrong has done a hell of a job.

The problem here stems from the fact that Armstrong inserts himself into many of the organization's roster decisions despite a clear lack of understanding of how the game works. The same goes for a few other people, too. And while they might be really good at their primary job descriptions, they suck at knowing what's in the best interests of the actual team, and the last thing we need our bad GM to be hearing is bad advice. That's what leads to crazy bullshit like trading a valuable reliever for Horacio Ramirez. How arrogant do you have to be to try to make decisions on matters of which you have zero knowledge and zero training? Is this the worst-run organization in baseball, or what?

Forget Bavasi. Fire everyone. They all suck.