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Your Monday MaiLLbag

Regression candidates, warm winter drinks, and how baseball’s changed in the last six decades.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

If you read nothing else today, this week, or even the rest of 2016, read Matt’s response below. It’s a gem.

  • kennerdoloman, LL: Would you rather fight Mike Scioscia or Jeff Banister?

Grant: Mike Scioscia, because it would be so much more satisfying to take him down.

Ethan: I’ve always found banisters to be wooden, immobile, and easily breakable with one swift kick so I will mess with Texas and I will win.

Kate: The best answer to this was actually in the comments:

Chris (from Bothell): I would rather fight a Mike Scioscia-sized Jeff Banister, because he'd be all like "why am I so pudgy all of a sudden" and "why do I feel like debating the minutia of Queensberry rules" and "jesus, have I been drinking or something, I look terrible"…while during the confusion I just haul off and deck him because he looks like Scioscia.

  • MobiusOne, LL: Any good winter drink recipes?

John: Depending on your level of ambition, Apple Pie is a fun, cold weather drink. One gallon of apple cider, one gallon of apple juice, six (three inch) cinnamon sticks, 1 ½ cups of sugar (or to taste, but don't go overboard), and one liter of Everclear (or vodka, but I have never tried that). Put everything but the alcohol into a pot and bring it to boil while stirring it, then take it off the heat and take out the cinnamon sticks. Once it cools off, stir in the alcohol. You can then serve it immediately, at room temp/apple juice temp, or refrigerate it, or reheat it. It is strong(!) but if made right tastes, legitimately, like sweet apple pie.

Iz: John’s answer is appalling. The trick to drinking in the winter is to keep drinking warm weather drinks until the weather’s actually warm again.

Ethan: I know you probably mean alcohol, but I am using this moment to promote the egg nog latte, which I have fallen in love with this December.

  • MobiusOne, LL: What’s the depth at shortstop looking like if Segura regresses into a ditch/gets injured? Would O’ Malley/Freeman get pencilled in as the starter and another utility man called up or would it be trial-by-fire for Tyler Smith?

John: O’Malley, Motter, and Freeman all have the ability to play shortstop. While none of those options might seem exceptional, I think the team could get by if Segura missed some time. If Segura simply is bad, however, there isn't a real alternative with upside.

  • Hawksea, LL: When will the next trade go down?

Kate: One actually just happened. Check Twitter. (I assume this will be true by the time this comes out.)

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: What use of statistics (traditional but especially sabermetric) just absolutely drives you spare?

Ethan: RBIs is a cool stat. It shows how many runs someone drove in and runs are awesome! Kyle Seager falling one RBI short of 100 this past year was a bummer. That being said, if you use it to argue how good a player is or isn’t, I will find you and I will fight you.

Iz: There was a game where Jesús Sucre’s batting average started at .666, sank to .1something, then popped back up to .425 (not specific, but you get the idea). The thought of someone sitting in the stands, looking at the lineup on the screen and believing Sucre to be the Mariners top hitter makes me deeply frustrated.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: You're sitting in the bleachers at Safeco, about to watch M's v. Yankees. There is a bang of displaced air. Suddenly, an MLB player from 1957 is sitting next to you. What would you tell them about, over the course of a 9-inning game, to catch them up?

Matt: Our world has changed immeasurably in the near-sixty years since our proposed MLB time-traveling vet has seen the light of day. Now, in this kind of a situation, you really have to wonder exactly what would be legible--or even comprehensible--historical change to a member of a bygone era, whose knowledge is structured and determined by the moment from which they were ostensibly pulled from. Do you tell him our pockets now hold instantaneous access to the collected knowledge gathered by human civilization AND whatever the hell tv shows we feel like watching at any given moment? Maybe that the impasse with the Soviets almost leads to nuclear war in a couple years but that the Iron Curtain would eventually fall? What about the moon landing? ‘68? That the guy in Bedtime for Bonzo would eventually be the PRESIDENT? How about any of the other geopolitical events of the past 15 years that even you or I have only a precursory understanding of due to being caught up in the winds of historical change? No, no, I think the one thing you tell him is that in 2016 you can get beer that’s 10% alcohol at the ballpark, and that if you play your cards right and visit multiple vendors, you can have as many as you want. Then, once sloshed, you ask him where he put all his money. After a few slurred words you finally get a 60 year return on interest (see, pulled out of time in the 1950s, there will be no one able to withdraw any funds on his behalf) and you never have to worry about paying your student loans ever again. Also fuck the Yankees.

  • domenn, LL: Which player on our 40-man roster are we as a fanbase most taking for granted who could falter in '17? Which player is most flying under the radar but could break through?

John: I worry for Leonys, who seemed to find himself personally at home in Seattle, but has struggled with health and consistency much of his career. On the other side of that coin, while he may not be too under the radar, I am very excited by Mitch Haniger and his potential to combine excellent speed and range with a bat that couldddd be for real. At the very least, Haniger (and Booooog) should actually help Leonys get a day off once in an ever.

Grant: I’m more than a little nervous that Nelson Cruz could finally fall victim to Father Time. I know he’s been a stud for years now, but if he loses a bit of his contact skills, and slows down just a bit, he becomes an absolute fiasco whenever he plays the field and his average sinks like a rock. It wasn’t that long ago when his free agency contract seemed like quite a risk.

Iz: When someone, or something, is dying they usually have one final good day that precedes the the day of their actual death and I fear that 2016 was Hisashi Iwakuma’s peak before death. I hope very, very much to be wrong about that, but can’t shake the uncertainty I feel when penciling him in as the number two starter in an already shaky rotation. I’ll branch out from my standard Guillermo Heredia answer, when it comes to players flying under the radar, and instead say that if Nate Karns is healthy he and that brutal curve of his could be a really pleasant surprise for the season.

  • ZZHop, LL: What are the chances that new ownership will do the fans a favor, and knock a couple bucks off the price of beer? When a pint of Field 41 at the game costs more than a sixer does at the store, it removes my motivation to have a couple at the game. Even at $8-9 a pint, they’re still making a nice margin on that. And, after a couple beers, I’m more likely to buy a burger or hot dog. As it stands, I pre-funk at Collins, buy a dog from one of the alley vendors, and not spend any cash (ok,maybe 1 beer) inside the game.

Iz: The chances are zero, sorry. It’d be like Robbie suddenly asking the front office to lower his contract just because they sent him an Edible Arrangement with some chocolate covered strawberries in it. But hey, thanks for reminding me to send that strongly worded letter about having non-beer options during happy hour in The Pen.

  • JJ Keller, LL: Who is your top starting pitching target? Preferably one who is available and within what the Mariners can afford (in money and prospects).

John: I think they should keep looking at trade targets, but should sign Doug Fister yesterday. He's not gonna be great, and probably will be slightly overpaid in a $/WAR sense, but it would be a one or two year deal most likely, and if he is even just 2016 Wade Miley that is still a minor bulwark against the mire of uncertainty that is this rotation.

Ethan: Drew Smyly was one guy I was pretty keen on before the “Mariners and Rays discussing starting pitching” rumors heated up (JJ, you put up a solid FanPost on him, by the way). I feel like the Mariners could easily be outbid for any of the big SP names out there and aside from Tyson Ross, free agency lacks any intriguing upside. If Smyly could stay healthy, he’d be a decent bounceback candidate and he shouldn’t be too expensive.

  • JasonRyan, LL: Sonny Gray: Yay or Nay as a potential target? 2014: 3.1 fWAR, 2015: 3.7 fWAR, 2016: 0.7 fWAROHNOWHATHAPPENED. Steamer projects a bounceback in 2017 to the tune of 3 wins in 199 IP but even if you take the under on WAR and innings…he could be a really solid gamble, right? Especially if recent reports on him not generating much trade interest are accurate and the cost isn’t nuts. Thoughts?

Grant: He’s certainly much better than he was last season, and there are a number of signs that he had quite a bit of bad luck (an HR/FB rate nearly double his previous high, a 64-point BABIP increase from 2015, a strand rate of 63.9% compared to a league average of 72.9%). That said, given the fact that he’s still only 27, I can’t imagine the A’s would trade him for less than a boatload of prospects & players. If we could get him with only dealing minor leaguers and we only gave up Tyler O’Neill and a few other prospects, I’d be very okay with it. But I don’t think Oakland would.

  • AndrewMcQ, LL: We saw Altavilla and Diaz convert to relievers with pretty good success last year. Any high minors guys you see making a similar transition to help the pen this year—particularly lefties?

John: Thyago “Peach Emoji” Vieira. I'd defer to others on org lefties, though if you count recent acquisitions, I think Zac Curtis could be solid out of spring training. I see James Pazos getting a similar treatment to Paxton last year, where he spends some time down in AAA despite being the most talented option, and hopefully being a contributor midseason.

Ethan: Hey, I get to talk about Yarbrough again! Ryan Yarbrough’s continued development of his slider has given him a pretty decent out pitch and if he were to switch to the ‘pen, his fastball should bump up to around the mid-90s. I’ve expected him to switch to reliever for some time, despite the success he’s had as a starter. Best of all, he wouldn’t be limited to a LOOGY role, he has been fairly successful against right-handed hitting and would be available to make an emergency start or three when necessary.

  • Hawksea, LL: Can the Mariners get some alternate uniforms that look like the Seahawks Color Rush ones? They are pretty amazing!

Grant: Didn’t you catch the M’s announcement in September?

  • IncredibleSulk, LL: Do you think the Angels are actually going to be competitive next year?

Ethan: If they manage to stay healthy, especially in the rotation, I think they have a shot to be competitive. I don’t believe in them as legitimate threats to take the division or anything, but they’ll hang around much longer than they did in 2016. I really dig the Simmons-Espinosa middle infield and Mike Trout is Mike Trout.

Iz: Nope. I genuinely cannot fathom a season where they have an entirely healthy starting rotation and if you think the M’s SP depth is bad, whoa boy do the Angels make us look good. They’re going to be more bothersome than they were last year, but I don’t anticipate shaking my fist at them with any more vigor than I did last season.

  • yoshi71, LL: Which outfielder has the highest WAR this year? (Martin, Haniger, Smith, Heredia, Gamel, Valencia, other)

Ethan: I’ll say Martin, strictly because his defensive value is the most concrete thing in the outfield to me. If he’s even passable as a hitter, we’re looking at a 2-3 WAR season. After him, I’ll go Haniger, who has so many different tools that could potentially provide value next year.

Iz: Sticking with Martin also, particularly given the amount of playing time he gets and because I’m desperately hoping he finds some middle ground offensively. If Valencia makes more than a handful of appearances in the outfield something will have gone horribly awry.

  • goyo70, LL: If Gamel-Heredia or Vogelbach tank for the first two months of the season, what’s the fallback? Valencia could play full time. But is there a plan B in the outfield if 2 of the 3 unproven pieces don’t produce?

Ethan: Valencia would take over as the full-time first baseman and you’d have to find the most survivable version of the outfield (which two of Haniger/Gamel/Heredia/Powell/O’Neill are the least unproductive in the immediate future?). An official Plan B is hoping Tyler O’Neill is ready, I suppose.

  • goyo70, LL: What metric has the best predictive power for AAA to MLB success? Essentially: How do talent evaluators like Jerry and his staff assess the difference between a strong Haniger minor league season and a strong Stefen Romero minor league season that give them the confidence that one will hit and the other won’t?

Kate: I think it’s subjective depending on what each front office values; Jack Z clearly had a different method of assessing an MLB-ready player compared to JeDi. It sounds tired but I think the C the Z metric means a lot to this FO, because it shows a hitter’s ability to dictate the at-bat. Romero was striking out at about 20% in Tacoma and walking only 5%. But I think there’s a subjective aspect to it too, looking at what kind of pitches a guy is taking vs. what he’s laying off of; that may or may not show up in the K-BB ratio.