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  1. Maybe now people will use the 2009 Mariners as a case study in why Fielding Percentage isn’t a particularly good stat.

    Comment by Joe R — September 29, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  2. I just wish we had signed Felix longterm before we started making him look even better than he probably is (which is already pretty darned good to begin with). That there is even a moderate discussion over who should be the Cy Young this year is more a testament to the M’s defense than anything. If Felix somehow wins it (and I don’t advocate that… just sayin’), he needs to be buying Rolexes for everyone out there on the field behind him much like QB’s buy watches for their offensive linemen.

    Comment by Bodhizefa — September 29, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  3. Dave,

    Thanks as always for this piece. How are the M’s looking defensively going forward into 2010? I know Beltre is coming off the books (any chance he re-ups?) and Jack Wilson has an option, so they may be losing the entire left side of a stellar defensive infield.

    As a dynasty owner of King Felix, the potential loss of these great defensive assets is about the only reason that perhaps selling him this offseason at great value has even entered my mind. What are your thoughts?

    Thanks again.

    Comment by Rob — September 29, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  4. I don’t know much about the details of how UZR works. However, should we expect teams that are on the extreme high end of range to also have more errors? This would seem logical, in that guys have more opportunities, but also are stretching themselves and so not necessarily able to make all the plays.

    On a whole, is there any correlation between range and errors in UZR at either the low or high ends?

    Comment by Gabriel — September 29, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  5. The Jays have put some awesome defensive teams out there the past 2-3 seasons, especially 2008 in terms of runs allowed. In 2008 they gave up 3.8 runs allowed per game – a great stat. They seriously under performed there run differential and pythag.record.

    Comment by Matt B. — September 29, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  6. Well, I guess the answer to “What happens when stats and scouting meet?” is “Awesome defense.”

    Comment by Mitch — September 29, 2009 @ 11:43 am

  7. Imagine if they had a league average short stop for the full season?

    Comment by Steve C — September 29, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  8. Unfortunately the answer that most people will give is: “A third place finish”.

    Comment by DavidCEisen — September 29, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  9. Imagine if they were better than last in MLB in runs scored…

    Comment by lincolndude — September 29, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  10. MGL has mentioned that, in general, range and errors have a negative correlation, meaning that fielders with better range also tend to rate better in sure-handedness (at least as far as errors mean sure-handedness).

    Comment by Kincaid — September 29, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  11. That’s the downside of all those great defenders. If they could hit, you couldn’t acquire them without expending a boatload of cash or talent.

    Comment by Snapper — September 29, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  12. Seems like give and take. At one end of the teeter totter is defense and at the other end is the Mariners offense. Add more defense and you are getting less offense. Try to add more offense, but you end up getting less defense. It’s very difficult to find that player who is both good in offense and defense.

    My guess is the player who’s value is more heavily weighted by defense is going to be more of a bargain than the player who is more heavily weighted by offense. Thus the cash strapped teams (Rays) and sabermetrically inclined teams with some cash strapping (Mariners) go for the defensive player and hope that they get somewhat lucky with an uptick to their offense.

    vr, Xeifrank

    Comment by Xeifrank — September 29, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  13. I wonder how they would rate had they not given all that time to Yuniesky at short and had Jack Wilson actually played after the trade.

    Comment by Bill — September 29, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  14. Hey, it’s a long sight better than “last in the league” . . .

    Comment by The Ancient Mariner — September 29, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  15. Snapper — the *great* fielders on this roster *can * hit (aside from Jack Wilson, anyway). Actually, that’s the downside of DHs who are better labeled DOs (designated outs), and so much playing time going to guys who do nothing particularly well (Yuni being only the most egregious example).

    Comment by The Ancient Mariner — September 29, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  16. There should be a bunch of OF/DH types available for the Mariners to upgrade their offense w/o losing defensive ability (just one possibility: Matsui replaces Griffey as DH). I don’t think that one bat makes them a playoff team, but if they can find a few more upgrades they could be a WC contender.

    Comment by Rob in CT — September 29, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  17. As a Mariner’s fan my guess is this:

    Beltre will be offered, at least, a 1-2 year deal. The M’s would loss Beltre if someone offers him a big, long term contract, eventhough Beltre has had an injury ruined year.
    Jack Wilson will be offered, at least, a 1-3 year deal. The M’s really like Wilson. I would expect them to work out a decent deal.

    It would take knowing someone in the front office to know more. The M’s front office is pretty good with leaking only the information it wants.

    Comment by Mark Sobba — September 29, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  18. I was thinking something similar. If the M’s had had Jack Wilson for a full season instead of Betancourt, Cedeno and JOSH Wilson. I am sure the offensive production would not be worse, but the improvement in defense would be interesting.

    Also, a full season of Endy Chavez would have pushed the UZR even further.

    Comment by Mark Sobba — September 29, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  19. Unfortunately, the word is out on defense. Look for alot of players, especially this offseason to get good paychecks just because of their defensive ability.

    Comment by Derek — September 29, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  20. In July I did some analysis of my own and concluded the primary reason for Seattle not being in first place went to the DHs. Had they had a DH with a .900 ops or better, then they would likely have been a first place team. It was really criminal that Seattle did not trade to get one in July (or ever). I can’t imagine a team I would have wanted to watch more this post season than Seattle (other than my home team the NATS).

    Comment by PhD Brian — September 29, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  21. The defensive nucleus that Dave mentioned – Gutierrez, Suzuki, and Beltre, who together accounted for over half of the team’s UZR runs – are all decent hitters.

    Comment by lincolndude — September 29, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  22. Had bedard stayed healthly and they picked up the one bat ,then they would have been a WS contender.

    Comment by PhD Brian — September 29, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  23. During my analysis Bedard was going to give them many more innings than they got. So maybe they need him to return as well.

    Comment by PhD Brian — September 29, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  24. Gutierrez is a good hitter. Ichiro, well, we’ve all heard about Ichiro. Branyan’s become a poor man’s Adam Dunn, but according to UZR has been slightly above average at 1B, and Jose Lopez is a solid 2B (and probably the 2009 Dave Kingman award winner for his .272/.304/.465, 25 HR line). They can definitely use a good DH in the FA market for 2010 (Delgado? Nick Johnson?), but there’s no doubt in my mind they can compete in 2010. Unfortunately for them, so will the other 3 teams in the AL West (don’t sleep on the A’s, they’ve played surprisingly well lately).

    Comment by Joe R — September 29, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  25. Great, thanks for the thoughts. Obviously, I wasn’t looking for a certainty, just wanted to know what M’s fans thought/felt. Appreciate it.

    Wait and see how it plays out, I suppose.

    Comment by Rob — September 29, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  26. Well, let’s not overstate. They’ve played .500 ball but with a pretty bad run differential.

    A good DH and Erik Bedard don’t seem like enough to swing the 100 or more additional runs they would have needed to compete with the Angels.

    Comment by lincolndude — September 29, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  27. I guess this begs this question, just how valuable is defense with regard to wins and losses? Seattle is -62 in run differential, and seems to be outperforming their pythag by about 8 games or so. Is this difference attributable to defense, or is it attributable to luck, or both?

    I would be interested to see if good defensive teams consistently outperform their expected W/L record based on run differential.

    Comment by Connecticut Mike — September 29, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  28. Good theory, except, again, that’s not really what’s happening here. The defensive core that was mentioned, Ichiro, Gutierrez, and Beltre, aren’t what’s killing the team’s offense. What’s killing the team’s offense is Sweeney’s 108 OPS+ in 261 PAs at DH,Griffey’s 91 OPS+ at 434 PAs at DH/bad OF, Rob Johnson’s 68 OPS+ (*gag*) in 283 PAs at C, and Betancourt’s 62 OPS+ (*re-gag*) in 245 PAs at SS.

    Collectively, these players have cost the Mariners something like two wins with the bat, while either not playing defense at all or playing it badly.

    Comment by NBarnes — September 29, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  29. What’s the theory there?

    I think a more likely explanation for the difference is Seattle’s great performance in 1 run games (33-20 or something like that). Seems doubtful that that would be affected by defense more than any other facet of the game.

    Comment by lincolndude — September 29, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  30. Why OPS+ and not wOBA?

    Comment by Not David — September 29, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  31. Good point.
    vr, Xei

    Comment by Xeifrank — September 29, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  32. Using wOBA instead of OPS+ wouldn’t change the meaning of the post at all. OPS+ gets the point across just as well.

    Comment by Kincaid — September 29, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  33. Yes, Adrian Beltre is killing the team’s hitting. Gutierrez has been ok hitting, but could relapse. Yes, they have the advantage of not also sucking in the field. So, the team is laden with great fielding no hit guys and bad fielding no hit guys.

    Comment by wobatus — September 29, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  34. BTW, the Mariners Pythagorean record stinks. About 10 games worse than their actual record. I think people are going to make too much of their fielding wins approach and neglect the fact that ya know, you still need to score. Yes, it was a good way to improve quickly in a cost effective way, but they still “should” be 12-13 games below .500, despite being world’s best defensive team ever according to this nifty 7 years of data we have. And hey, they lost Raul Ibanez and his 6.4 UZR over in Citizen’s Bandbox.

    Comment by wobatus — September 29, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  35. I would expect that a team with good fielding and poor hitting would tend to be in more one run games than average, just because they are going to have more games with a low number of total runs scored.

    That still doesn’t explain why the Mariners have been so successful this season in those one run games, just why they have been in so many of them.

    Comment by Paul B — September 29, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  36. I don’t think it’s logical at all.

    If you’re getting to more balls you have a bigger zone of balls that you get to “easily” so you can handle them well. It might even be harder to make errors since the balls in your “error zone” will have to be hit to even more extremes to force an error.

    I’d expect, since their range is so great, that the Mariner arms may not match their speed and many of these errors are throwing errors.

    Comment by Samuel Lingle — September 29, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  37. The problem with this idea is that everyone is stretching themselves when they’re at the edge of their range.

    Comment by lincolndude — September 29, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  38. So we have the best defensive team of the decade in third place in the AL West.

    I’d be curious if the WAR based on the combined defensive and offensive numbers has the Mariners at about what their record is or if it overpredicts the record. I am looking for insight as to whether the crude metrics of runs above replacement for fielding are at all reliable yet.

    Comment by Branch Rickey — September 29, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

  39. There are no pure DHs with a.900 ops this year. Adam Lind has one but he has played a lot of left field.

    Comment by wobatus — September 29, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  40. Indeed, I agree with lincolndude. The only way this would possibly work is if there was a correlation to range and a person’s willingness to reach for the ball (i.e. defenders with greater range are more athletic and therefore make riskier attempts at the ball). Not claiming this to be true, but I don’t see another way the theory works.

    Comment by Pat — September 29, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  41. As of tonight, the Mariners’ position players account for 20.1 WAR, while the pitchers account for 14.5 WAR. A replacement level (.300 win%) team should win around 47 games by this point in the season, so if you tally up the totals, the Mariners should be at right around 81-82 wins. Lo and behold, they’re at 80 wins. Not bad for this methodology.

    For what it’s worth, BtB’s Power Rankings have them at around 74 wins, and that methodology is far more thorough than what I just did.

    Comment by Michael — September 29, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  42. Michael,
    Adding up a team’s WAR to see how well it reflects their win total is an exercise in redundancy if I don’t misunderstand the stat. Bill James’ stat takes the number of actual wins and divides it to figure out who to attribute the credit for them. What you’ve done is reverse the process.

    Comment by Bookbook — September 29, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  43. That is true of Win Shares (Bill James’ stat). WAR, on the other hand, are based only on production and not made to fit actual wins. Two teams with the same UZR, wOBA, FIP, league, and playing time but different win totals will still have the same WAR. There are cases where a team’s WAR will vary from its actual record as much as Pythagorean record can vary from actual record.

    Comment by Kincaid — September 30, 2009 @ 12:33 am

  44. The Mariners’ real problem is that once you subtract out the impact of that great defense from their pitching numbers… their staff frankly stinks. Even with Hernandez.

    Comment by Paul Thomas — September 30, 2009 @ 2:21 am

  45. But wins above replacement level is a lot different than wins above .500, no? A team full of replacement players isn’t going to play .500 ball. That’s a team made up of the 751st-775th best players, roughly, right? How much team wide WAR do you need to get to .500.

    Comment by wobatus — September 30, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  46. Wobatus,

    I believe a replacement-level team can be expected to win about 49 or 50 games. So I guess the answer to your last question is something like 31 or 32 WAR.

    Comment by Teej — September 30, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  47. I have some skepticism on this for two reasons: one, I wonder about park effects; two, how can the best defensive team of the decade not have even the highest DER of the year (dodgers are a hair ahead of them)?

    Comment by AMusingFool — September 30, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  48. go mariners go

    Comment by mo — October 3, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  49. Jack Z just talked about this article.

    Comment by Jeff K — October 4, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

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