The Great #6org Discussion – Part 2

There’s no way I can answer all of the questions in the previous thread, but I’ll do my best to pick ones that seem to represent the population, and so hopefully no one feels left out. Without further ado:

Do you stand by your pre-season ranking? I.e. would you put them #6 again given the same information? Somewhere else?

For most people, I assume this is the big question. Honestly, though, the answer is complicated. Yes, I stand by the ranking, but no, I probably wouldn’t put them #6 if I had to do it over again. That’s confusing, I know, so let me try to explain.

I’m of the opinion that we should see everything in shades of probability. Since we don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t find a lot of value in predictions. They are, for all intents and purposes, just guesses, some more informed than others. For instance, in my pre-season just for fun predictions post, I named Josh Hamilton as my AL MVP. I thought he was in store for a pretty good year. I had no idea he was going to go nuts like he has, of course, and I don’t think he’s proven that I had some special insight into how his season was going to go.

So, when people point to the Mariners record and how 2010 has turned out, I don’t look at it as proof that this result was inevitable. It was one of many possible outcomes, and one I tried to make clear was possible ahead of time. In the initial post, I talked about how I expected the team to either boom or bust, noting that the risks they had taken would either pay off and result in contention or flop and lead to a mid-summer sell-off. We saw the latter, obviously.

I do not believe that what we have seen invalidates the possibility of what we have not seen, however. I just don’t buy into the philosophy of the results of one season proving correct or incorrect a particular point of view. I believe that most of what I wrote about the team heading into the season was valid and logically sound. I stand by that logic. But, of course, with new information, we have to look back and determine whether or not our expectations were faulty, and there are a few areas where I would say I overestimated the organization.

Do you think you overvalued front office personnel, as opposed to player assets? (MLB and MiLB)

This is, I believe, where the largest disconnect in opinions comes from. I do believe that I value the non-player aspects of an organization more than most, or at least, that’s my perception based on the responses I’ve seen. In my opinion, the most important aspect of an organization’s future health is their continued access to capital and their ability to spend resources wisely. A large payroll team that knows what they are doing is, in many cases, in a better long term position than a team with better players in the organization that is either poorly capitalized or poorly managed.

It appears to me that most people think that I vastly overestimated the talent that the Mariners put on the field this year. I don’t think I did, to be honest. My best guess at the beginning of the season was that they would win 83 games and not make the playoffs, and we talked a lot about how they were counting on a lot of high variance players to perform well. None of them did, and the season has obviously not gone well, but I didn’t expect this team to win the division this year, and I went into the season knowing that a last place finish was entirely possible.

It seems that the consensus is that a team that I saw as .500ish in 2010 should not have ranked so highly, since their talent base is not as impressive as several teams ranked behind them. However, I see players as very fickle assets. You can easily have a franchise player like Grady Sizemore or Jose Reyes quickly lose almost all of their value, and I do not believe that an organization’s overall health should depend on the performance of a small handful of players.

A good team with a lot of resources can adapt to what the unpredictable future brings. We don’t know how players are going to do going forward, which ones are going to stay healthy, or who will follow a non-traditional career arc and play in a manner that is totally unexpected. We can make some educated guesses, especially for the upcoming year, but beyond that, we’re basically throwing dice. However, if you have an organization like the Yankees or Red Sox, who have sustainable resource advantages and know how to use those advantages to full potential, you can project contention further into the future even without knowing what players they’ll have or how the ones they currently have will perform.

Seattle is not a Boston or New York, but they’re a profitable organization that is consistently in the top tier of revenues and payroll, and has a management team in place that knows how to build a winner. Yes, I still believe that. I understand that some people will have skepticism of that belief. That’s fine. I’d argue that this is more of a “reasonable people can disagree” issue than a “oh my god you are a biased moron” issue, though. Yes, the Mariners got a lot of credit in the non-player categories, which pushed them to a level that I understand most of you feel they didn’t deserve. I hope that you can see the consistency of application of the approach throughout the list, however – well run teams with abilities to spend a lot of money ranked really well. My perspective is that the talent currently in an organization is not the primary driver of an organization’s overall health. I know that most people do not see things the same way. I’m okay with that. I just hope they understand where I’m coming from, rather than just assuming that the perspective was born out of a pro-Seattle bias.

Since the rankings basically read like a pre-season guess at who the best teams were this coming year – I acknowledge that wasn’t the intent, but that is how they appear at a glance – that caught attention.

We’ll finish up this post with this question (more answers coming tomorrow, I promise), because I think there’s an important distinction to be made here – the organizational rankings were not at all any kind of attempt at a prediction of the best teams of 2010. Certainly, there’s going to be a strong correlation between those two things for obvious reasons, but that was not the intent.

The organizational rankings are an attempt at a “state of the organization today” kind of analysis. Think of it kind of like the trade value series, only with teams instead of players. We openly admit that we have no idea whether Zack Greinke or Felix Hernandez is going to pitch better over the next three to five years – there are way too many variables in play to make that kind of projection much better than 50/50 either way. The best we can do is take the information we have today and say “if I had to pick one, I’d take this guy”.

The organizational rankings are the same, only with even more expected variance in on field performance because its dealing with significantly more than one player. As several people who hate the whole exercise noted in the comments, there’s no way to know what a team’s roster will look like in several years, or even how good players currently on the team will be. We can make some guesses, but that far out, we’ll be wrong more often than we’re right. I totally agree with the sentiment that projecting a team five years out is folly.

And so I hope that you guys will realize that’s not what we’re trying to do. It’s not a prediction. It’s an “as of today, here’s where they stand” analysis. We try to weigh what factors we can know at the moment and rank things in terms of probability. For all we know, the Astros and Royals may play for the World Series title next year. It’s highly unlikely, which is why those two teams are at the bottom of the list, but it’s possible.

Rather than seeing the list as a prediction of future results, try to see them as a state of the probabilities of success at a given point in time. Even the best organizations are going to be unlikely to win a championship in the next five years. We’re just trying to show which ones may have the best chance at continued success, based on what we can know at the time.

We’re not going to get everything right, clearly. I’d argue that I was more wrong about the Brewers than I was about the Mariners, and I can look back and see some serious issues that I overlooked or underestimated in Milwaukee, but clearly both of those rankings have been called into question, with valid reasoning. But, I think its helpful to at least agree on what the rankings are, and hopefully that can help alleviate some of the questions about why a team that wasn’t projected to be all that great in 2010 ranked so highly to begin with.




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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


136 Responses to “The Great #6org Discussion – Part 2”

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  1. hank says:

    Typical… I don’t put too much weight in predictions, but I will point out that I predicted Josh Hamilton as MVP…

    See this is the problem… not that you may have been wrong about a prediction, but the even if I’m wrong, I’m not wrong mentality.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I pointed out the Hamilton prediction to specifically point out that predictions are meaningless. I even said so in the post. I didn’t know Hamilton was going to do this. I’m not seeking any kind of credit for predicting his performance. I guessed and got lucky.

      That’s why predictions are useless, and why I’m not overly interested in them, or this whole “proven right or wrong” thing.

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      • Louis says:

        Case in Point…

        The almost universal prediction from the start of the season that the Jays would be the worst team in the AL. Who would have thought that losing Halladay and Rolan would cause the team to be better?

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      • philosofool says:

        I’m pretty sure I’d be taking you out of context to think you just said “predictions don’t matter.” Predictions do count. It’s how we know that FIP is a good measure of pitching ability. It’s how we know that linear weights are meaningful: we can test the predictions of FIP and linear weights against actual outcomes and more often than not they are correct (within a certain margin of error.)

        Furthermore, it’s not really clear we’re saying very much at all if our statements are compatible with any future outcome whatsoever, or with most of all the possible future outcomes. My biggest worry about organizational rankings is that they’re more bluster, speculation, and close to bullshitting (in the way guys sitting around in a bar are bullshitting), than really meaningful things to say precisely because they seem like they’re intended not to have any empirical refutation. It seems to me like organizational rankings are getting very close to the intangible things David Eckstein brings to the team when we can’t hang our hat on them and say “this is what these organizational ranking predict.”

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    • jetsfansam says:

      He then goes on to say that he thinks that one (possibly) accurate prediction does not show that he has any special insight into the season anymore than one incorrect prediction would show that he had absolutely no insight into this season.

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    • Travis L says:

      Did you finish reading the paragraph? “… and I don’t think he’s proven that I had some special insight into how his season was going to go. “

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  2. bill says:

    “The organizational rankings are an attempt at a “state of the organization today” kind of analysis.”

    What does that mean though? How can we measure it? The only real objective ways are wins and revenue, in my eyes.

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    • Travis L says:

      Why did you insert the requirement for objective to be in there? I don’t recall there being ANY discussion about these rankings being objective. Hell, I don’t think you can have objective predictive rankings — the series wasn’t, “which are the best organizations of the past 5 years.”

      If it were, you could look @ marginal cost / win, etc.

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      • quint says:

        What makes it more complicated is each organisation has different goals which makes objective measures hard.

        I believe my Red Sox rank low on marginal cost per win, but I believe Theo and his front office could build a really good 85-90 win team at the least possible cost.

        They can’t do that, because they would finish third or fourth in the AL East, but they could win the AL Central, and the NL (enter division).

        I think you have to evaluate the front office in organisation rankings, but every front office has different short term goals and win targets, and budgets, owners etc.

        That said, I personally struggled with this #6 – the current team isn’t that good, the farm is average, but beceause they have money and a good front office they are really high? Yes that helps, but it doesn’t overcome the current team and the farm.

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      • bill says:

        If we don’t feel like being objective, let’s just go back to wins, RBI’s, and batting average.

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  3. copy editor says:

    Dave,

    it’s “without further ado”, not “without further adieu”.

    ado means “fuss”, adieu means “goodbye”.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      If predications are essentially meaningless, why waste your time? It seemed to me at the time, that you were treating the rankings as very serious business, but now you are portraying them as worthless.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        sorry, obviously not meant to be a reply to copy editor.

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      • batpig says:

        seems like you missed the part where he said that his rankings were NOT intended to be a prediction.

        where did he say the rankings were “worthless” again?

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        What then is ‘a state of the probabilities of success at a given point in time’ if not a prediction of the probabilities of success? A prediction is using information at hand to make a statement about potential futures.

        Dave seems to be saying: “My rankings weren’t wrong, because I didn’t know x, y, and z would happen.” No, your rankings were wrong because you couldn’t know x, y, and z, so the entire exercise was mental gymnastics. It’s not reality’s fault for not conforming to your model.

        Dave’s post is filled with contradictions. He states: “It’s not a prediction. It’s an “as of today, here’s where they stand” analysis. We try to weigh what factors we can know at the moment and rank things in terms of probability.”

        So, it’s not a prediction but the probability of success in the future. When a weatherman makes a prediction about the weather it is based on the factors we know at the moment. When economists make predictions about the future of markets it is based on the factors we can know at the moment. When we make predictions about baseball teams, it is based on the factors we can know at the moment.

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      • assistant to the copy editor says:

        I think you meant to say “predictions,” not “predications.”

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      • Matthias says:

        I think what Dave was trying to say that any given prediction is somewhat meaningless, because it is only one of many possible outcomes.

        Consider the following game. You can either bet $1 bazillion dollars on a game where you win 60% of the time, or you can bet $1 a bazillion times with that same 60% probability.

        In the first case there are only two possible outcomes. If you lose, no one is going to fault you for making a 60% odds bet (though they might fault you for betting your life savings). In the second case, the chances that you finish in the negative even if you play just 100 games is only 2.7%, whereas you had a 40% chance to finish in the negative in the first case.

        Any one prediction often has a large chance of being way off, i.e. you might a 40% chance to lose your life saving and look like a fool. But instead if we create these probability distributions explaining the likelihood of all possible outcomes, then we can take something from that.

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  4. Nick Steiner says:

    Wel if you are valuing talent (both in the present and the future) much less than payroll/front office ability, than I don’t disagree with your ranking of the Mariners. The problem is that I think most people would disagree with that premise. That’s why there is a high correlation between salary and performance, as well as prospect status and performance.

    Furthermore, projecting the success of a front office is complete guesswork given the lack of objective methodology. I would submit that should not be a part of FanGraphs – which is first and foremost a place for objective analysis.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Clarifying – you believe that we should assume that the Red Sox front office and the Astros front office have the same level of baseball acumen and will acquire talent at roughly the same efficiency going forward?

      Because, well, I strongly disagree.

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      • joe says:

        I think you missed the point a bit – the Mariners are starting from a lower talent level them teams below them on the org rankings. You’re not simply assuming the M’s can acquire talent at a better rate, but at a rate which will overcome the gaps they currently have with other teams near them in the rankings in the next 3-5 years (or whatever timeline you are assuming for the rankings)

        If all teams are starting with the same current and future talent then yes front office is the deciding factor (well that and money), but aren’t the Mariners currently below the talent level of many of the teams below them?

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      • Wally says:

        I certainly don’t agree that judging the front office is complete guess work, but when thinking of things as probability distributions, the FO is going to have a wider distribution that the actual players. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one major one is that the front office functions to acquire players that have probability distributions themselves. So they are one step further removed from the end product, which naturally inflates error. Then the second biggest reason is that we can’t objectively measure FOs. We can give them “awful, bad, below average, average…etc.” grading, but with the actually players we have a continuous scale with many thousands of player seasons from which to create projections. We can’t do that with the FO. So while the front office might be the most important factor to you, you have to realize its also the least well understood and thus contains the most uncertainty.

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      • Nick Steiner says:

        Not at all. I believe that you should either find a way to objectively rate front offices (based on previous dollar per WAR, draft picks, etc.), or else weigh your subjective observations of a front office’s ability much less compared to less variable measures of team quality (such as payroll, projected record/playoff odds, and farm rankings).

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      • cpebbles says:

        I think the state of the ballclub’s talent level and finances gives us a far better measure of the front office’s ability to produce a winner than whatever your process was.

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    • JMHawkins says:

      cpebbles:

      “I think the state of the ballclub’s talent level and finances gives us a far better measure of the front office’s ability to produce a winner than whatever your process was.”

      You realize, don’t you, that the current talent level and finances of the M’s is the result of a previous front office that made a series of really bad decisions? And that the current GM has made some pretty major strides in improving that talent level in two offseasons?

      Unless of course you’re one of the “HowChuck have to go” brigade who think they’re still pulling the strings and Zduriencik is just a puppet.

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    • Matt says:

      If current talent on the roster doesn’t mean as much as front office and revenue, why is Tampa Bay ranked 3rd? Granted, they make some great decisions and deals, but if Seattle’s Front office and revenue can make up for a clear lack of talent (a team you were aware could very easily finish last going into the season), how does Tampa Bay make up for a lack of payroll that we’re already seeing will cause problems holding their team(s) together.
      It just seems to indicate an inconsistency in the rankings. If talent can raise the ranking, I see why Tampa Bay is 3rd. If talent isn’t that important, I can see Seattle ranking 6th. But I can’t understand how talent can make up for Tampa’s lack of money but doesn’t detract from Seattle’s strengths. Unless 3 spots on that list are supposed to signify a big difference.

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      • Tampa Bay’s front office is pretty good. They, currently, don’t have the financial freedom of other AL East teams, but to date, the guys running the Rays have done a good job with other resources such as trades and drafting.

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  5. Chair says:

    LOL, I guess the Brewers became underrated by Dave with the loss of JackZ, and the M’s became overrated. JK, but had to say.

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  6. Justin says:

    Some of the furor has to reside in the fact that a Front Office was praised for putting together such a high variance team to begin with. There was quite a bit of interweb pats on the back, so to speak for the way the 2009 offseason went, and yet they put out a team that, at best, was on the way to 83 wins. So, I can see why there was such a distaste for the ranking and hand jobbing of Seattle’s FO.

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    • philosofool says:

      I think the reason this was praised was because the team had a lot of holes in the off season, and they were filled with low-cost, high variance guys. The thought was “The Mariners don’t have much of a contender right now and can’t afford blue chips, so their best move is to get some high-variance guys on one season contracts and see if that will work for them, with some luck.”

      I can’t help but feel like people are mistaking #6org for a prediction about the Mariners likely performance this season, which was predicted to be average.

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      • GhettoBear04 says:

        If you took these projections as how a team will do over the subsequent 3 years, then the Mariner’s would look like a poor choice for number 6, no?

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  7. Matt S says:

    My real question after this response to the most obvious questions is this: How does the reaction to this seasons failure by the FO affirm or invalidate your choice to rank them high up (not necessarily 6th)?

    I feel like the Lee trade was a great move and showed how even the worst case scenario for this season was well addressed by management, but the lack of other moves (like moving Aardsma or Branyan) isn’t encouraging. If revenue and savvy are the primaries for you, how do you think their approach stands up in the light of the poor season? How do things like the handling of firing their manager, the issues with Griffey and Figgins and others, reflect on the pre-season image? If you don’t want to depart from the pre-2010 season aspect, then how does their handling of this worst case scenerio compare to what you would have wanted for a worst case scenerio action plan?

    Wow, that’s alot of questions. Please excuse my verbosity.

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  8. Larry says:

    Was this all from the beginning a ploy to get more readers – label an apparently mediocre team the #6 organization in baseball coming into 2010, suffer the wrath as team unravels but like the best radio talk show hosts – inciting the listeners actually generates more of an audience instead of merely saying something that everyone agrees with.

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    • batpig says:

      sure, it’s all a huge conspiracy. anyone as cold and ruthlessly calculating as Dave could have predicted how ranking the Mariners as the #6 organization would cause an interwebs-wide furor…. sheesh….

      you act as though there was something unique here. Pretty much ANY ranking of ANY subset of baseball players/teams will generate a bunch of annoyed comments.

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  9. JBImaknee says:

    So I think this is where my problem lies “Seattle is not a Boston or New York, but they’re a profitable organization that is consistently in the top tier of revenues and payroll, and has a management team in place that knows how to build a winner.”

    How do you know Seattle has a management team in place that knows how to build a winner? Sure, there is some good evidence supporting that; but they’re pretty new to the job. Should there not have been some sort of discount applied to the M’s front office, given that there was some degree of uncertainty about whether they were indeed among the best in the big leagues?

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    • Xeifrank says:

      Good point, the front office with the very small sample size of empirical results should’ve been regressed to the mean of an average front office much harder than it was. That is what we do with player projections when we have small samples, we regress harder to the mean. Now we have a slightly better but still rather small (1 year) sample from this front office and we should regress this front office to nothing better than league average for the meantime.
      vr, Xei

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      • ThundaPC says:

        The thing that bothers me about this line of thinking is this. How long would you have to sit around and wait before calling the Tampa Bay Rays front office intelligent?

        There were people calling that organization smart and well-run back before 2008, when the team had no track record of winning. Given what we knew about their process, wasn’t it perfectly acceptable in 2008 to conclude that the Rays front office was intelligently run, even though they had never had a winning season?

        I don’t buy that we have to wait until an organization has a subset of winning seasons under the belt to conclude that it’s a smart one. The idea that the more winning seasons that Andrew Friedman has the smarter he gets doesn’t make much sense to me.

        All this season shows is that Jack Zduriencik can’t turn a run-down team into a World Series quality team in less than 2 years. No one can really. Most of the hype stemmed from the idea that given what we know about the players that assembled the 2010 Mariners, the team had a shot at contending. If that team works out then 2011, which would feature most of the same players also has a good shot and working out (although some of the same players would likely decline).

        Even with this year’s team not working out, the Seattle organization is still making progress, but now it’s looking more like they’ll have a strong team further down the road which, before the last off-season, what pretty much expected anyway.

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      • Xeifrank says:

        ***
        he idea that the more winning seasons that Andrew Friedman has the smarter he gets doesn’t make much sense to me.
        ***
        Strawman. You are not trying to determine that he is getting smarter. You are trying to determine a confidence level that you think he is X smart. If you have a new employee working for you fresh out of college, even though you may have a “general idea” of how good of an employee he will be, you really don’t know until you have a sample of data and some kind of proven track record. The more of a track record he/she has the less you regress and the more you go off of empirical data. It won’t work in all cases, but it will likely be the most accurate method in a macro sense.

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      • Wally says:

        Thunda,

        People were saying the Rays had a good front office because they had amassed a crap load of talent in the minor leagues over several years. That’s more track record than Jack Z and the rest of the staff have now, much less when these rankings were made.

        Plus, the one example of these unidentified people being right about that team doesn’t prove we can actually accurately predict FO talent. N=1 there man. And others have already pointed out counter examples. You’re cherry picking.

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    • Chris88 says:

      But Cameron ranked Texas even higher, largely based on having a smart front office, and no one is complaining simply because they are winning already. Did any of you see that coming?

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      • todmod says:

        Texas had a better record than Seattle in 2009, was slightly ahead in most projections in 2010, and most importantly – had WAY more young talent in the system. The young talent was the biggest reason for the high ranking, and I believe that was one of the biggest complaints about what Seattle was missing to be ranked so high.

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      • Ghost of Scott Brosius says:

        The main difference is that Texas, like the other highly rated teams, went into the season with a very large amount of major league and minor league talent. They’ve benefited from a few surprising performances, but like with the AL East teams, it wasn’t that difficult to see a team with Hamilton, Cruz, Kinsler, Andrus, Young, Feliz, Smoak, and others performing well. Whereas the Mariners had maybe 3 elite talents on the team, with little in the minors that could be expected to contribute. Because of the low talent level, the Mariner prediction stood out far more than those around it. And because Dave is a Mariners fan and blogger, I think it’s natural that this would raise some eyebrows, and some suggestion of (almost definitely unintentional) bias.

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      • JBImaknee says:

        You can make a reasonable case that the Rangers should be the #5 organization if front office quality didn’t even come into the equation.

        For most every team on the list, front office maybe could be seen to push them +/- 2 spots or so. For the M’s, it pushed them up at least 5 or 10 spots – every aspect of their organization on the field was mediocre at best. They have payroll going for them, and that’s it.

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  10. Nitram Odarp says:

    I think you have significantly underestimated the importance of amateur scouting and played development in your article and I think that’s where part of the problem is. It is much tougher to simply be competitive just because you use numbers and have more resources than most, if you’re lacking in those two categories. There just aren’t the sort of market inefficiencies anymore that Beane and the like gobbled up before more front offices became number oriented. Now the big inefficiency seems to be the ability to scout young players and properly develop them. That’s the reason a team like Atlanta is able to consistently put a good product on the field in spite of average resources and a front office that seemingly shuns statistical analysis.

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    • JonnyBS says:

      I fail to see how Frank Wren shuns statistical analysis. Bobby Cox, probably, but not Frank Wren.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        Why? Because of one comment he made about Vazquez’s FIP that was said mostly in jest?

        As far as I know, the Braves still only employ one stat guy, and they aren’t nearly as involved with sabremetrics as a lot of other teams.

        I also wasn’t speaking solely of Frank Wren, but also Schuerholz, who is in still in the FO and presided over the teams I was mostly referring to in my comment. The Braves continued to do well through the early years after Moneyball because of their scouting and player development, while basically laughing at the whole statistical thing (for examples read Schuerholz’s book). There more recent surge is largely due to the same thing.

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  11. Colin Wyers says:

    Dave, you originally wrote:

    “This is where I expect the disagreement lies, as I don’t think anything written above veers much from the common perception about the team. In terms of front office capability, financial commitment from ownership, revenues from the ballpark, and the other minor components of this section, the Mariners graded out very highly. Not just with me, but among everyone I talked to, including the other authors here on the site.”

    Ignoring the results in the Win-Loss column – do you still have the same confidence in the Mariners front office, given what’s happened since then? I mean things like the total mismanagement of Griffey’s exit from the team, or the way they hung Wakamatsu out to dry? Or when Armstrong and Lincoln acted totally baffled by Josh Lueke’s criminal record?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      My confidence in the front office has been lessened by some of their choices since the rankings were published. It’s still probably higher than most people’s, though, I would imagine.

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      • eitheror says:

        The bigger question here is: are you(is anyone?) qualified to do this at all? What percentage of the information needed to derive these rankings is freely available? Furthermore what percentage of that available information is measurable and comparable?

        With basic transactions we have 90-95%(I hope) of the information necessary to evaluate the basic frameworks of a trade or signing. Our perception of bad GMs is that they overvalue that vague 5-10%(game-calling, veteranship, grit, closer mentality, being jeff francouer). Ostensibly we’ve teased player values down to precise WAR ranges. (h/t Colin Wyers and defensive metrics, maybe we haven’t even gotten precise ranges?) So to extrapolate this process from players to entire organizations just seems like a doomed exercise.

        Here’s my specific 6org related comment. I am working on the assumption that Dave Cameron’s knowledge of the Mariners is greater than his knowledge of any other organization. I tried to make this point at the time of the ranking, but if you are comparing two different sized information sets you are already biasing your decision-making process no?

        Lastly, the fact that you have opened yourself to criticism and are responding respectfully and thoughtfully to respectful and thoughtful readers is awesome. This is what the internet should be, so thanks! As such I will not accuse you of having an above-it-all mien…

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    • Gio says:

      Why should anyone lose confidence on trivial things like that?

      Rank what’s important to a franchise–player development, drafting, trades and so on. Everything you mentioned is going to be toward the bottom.

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      • JMHawkins says:

        Gio, that’s a really good point.

        My own confidence in the M’s front office has been slightly lessened, not by their handling of Griffey’s exit, but by their bringing him back this year in the first place. That was compounded by adding Sweeney in as part of a DH platoon and the ripple effects that had on the rest of the roster. That, in addition to an injury prone Jack Wilson backed up by a minor league callup who is not a Shortstop and a seeming infatuation with a catcher who’s a defensive liability torpedoed the obstensible “defense first” plan for building the roster.

        So my biggest concern with Zduriencik is that he didnt’ seem able to follow through on his plan.

        But that’s balanced by a couple of other facts. One, quality SS and C don’t just grow on trees. They (and CFs) are massively hard to find, and the M’s had none in the cupboard. So I can’t completely fault Zduriencik for not doing better than Wilson and Johnson in a year with marginal playoff hopes. Two, the strides he’s made restocking the system in two offseasons is very encouraging. Turning a couple of very marginal prospects into Justin Smoak by waving Cliff Lee over them is one of the great slight-of-hands of the last few years.

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  12. Lucas says:

    “However, I see players as very fickle assets…I do not believe that an organization’s overall health should depend on the performance of a small handful of players.”

    This is an interesting perspective, but isn’t this all the moreso if you replace the word “players” with “front-office staff”? I mean, should a high-revenue team with a bad GM get knocked when nothing on Earth would be easier than swapping out the front office with new, smarter blood? I think (1) it’s very hard to judge front-office talent accurately, (2) it’s probably pretty flat across organizations, and (3) it’s extremely easy to replace when it’s not doing very well. Why put so much weight on it?

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      1) See “The Contest.” Bad Front Office Talent is easy to judge.
      2) If FO talent were even, then how do some mid-market teams consistantly outperform others? Why are the Cardinals successful yet the Cubs not?
      3) While replacing a FO may be easy, replacing it with a quality one is almost certainly not. It’s also clear across most pro sports that the foundation of a good front office is stable ownership that let’s the front office do its job. And owners are not easy to replace.

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      • Lucas says:

        1 and 2: I don’t know what “the Contest” is aside from a Seinfeld episode, but I don’t believe you can really measure GM talent in any halfway rigorous way. I mean, as the #6 org knows well, sometimes you make decisions for good reasons that turn out terrible and sometimes vice versa. GMs are often making decisions based on information the public doesn’t have, and anyway, the basket of clearly discernable GM decisions and results is typically a very small sample size. Maybe a few GMs stick out like sore thumbs, but the vast majority are probably pretty good with maybe a few being good+, although fate will necessarily make big winners and losers of some. Again, aside from a few outlying losers, do you really think FO talent explains a huge % of success that isn’t explained by (1) revenue, (2) luck, and (3) other personel talent like scouts and coaches? You hardly need to posit Einsteinian or idiotic GMs to explain the difference between the Cardinals and Cubs (who really haven’t been all that bad over the last decade or so, have they?). And if a genius GM like Jack Z can have such a miserable year, well that just makes all the sharper the point that GM talent and team success are not necessarily tightly connected.

        And as far as finding quality replacements, I can’t imagine anything easier. Being an MLB GM is a total dream job. The best and the brightest will line up for miles to do it. I guess having an idiot owner might prevent fully making use of this fact, but I didn’t get the impression that owner intelligence was really being measured.

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  13. Mike says:

    This is apropos of nothing but, do the Mariners use UZR to evaluate defense on the objective side, or do they do their own stuff, or is it a combination or what?

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      I believe most (if not all) teams have their own metrics for evaluating players–particularly in regards to defense. I imagine most good ones are similar to UZR, though.

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      • Mike says:

        Really, because I could’ve sworn I saw a quote by Tango or somebody saying that the Red Sox are really the only ones who do their own thing (specifically with defense) and most other teams just look at one of or several of the public ones.

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      • philosofool says:

        I read somewhere that many teams have their own systems, and at least one fairly qualified source said “UZR is nothing compared with some of the stuff going on inside the club houses.”

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      • Tree Climber says:

        I’ve heard teams factor Batted Ball/fx into their defensive metrics.

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  14. GBeck15 says:

    I don’t know how many people read both FanGraphs and USS Mariner (I’d assume a good amount, but assuming is bad), but if you do you can see a little more clearly the timeline of events here.

    Dave gave analysis of moves that occurred as the season approached, noting how they might be detrimental to the team’s success. Certain factors, such as the risk of Ian Snell, swapping Jose Lopez and Chone Figgins’ positions, bullpen positioning, etc. were noted and Dave wasn’t shy in questioning the motives for these moves and their potential impact.

    Granted, these rankings were, as Dave noted, not intended to predict or even deal with the results of the 2010 season primarily. However, accusing him of bias just because he is a fan of the Mariners seems off-base. I have never read anything at USS Mariner or this site that gives me the impression of a fanatical maniac hellbent on promulgating the Mariner agenda. He’s a passionate fan of a team.

    I’ve been a huge White Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Because I write about the White Sox, use a Gordon Beckham-inspired handle, and wear White Sox apparel frequently, does that hinder my ability to analyze baseball (being a huge fan of the sport in general)? I’d say no. And I’d say it doesn’t for Dave, either.

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    • GhettoBear04 says:

      If one were to have a bias that you weren’t aware of, wouldn’t it likely be with the team that you are closest to?

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      • GBeck15 says:

        That is a very good point. And I’m not denying that possibility. I guess I’m just saying I haven’t seen it in his writing, personally.

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      • GhettoBear04 says:

        I hadn’t really either until this whole fiasco. That’s what makes it so frustrating.

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      • Chris88 says:

        So GhettoBear, instead of concluding that he is suddenly biased why not conclude that he still isn’t and that the ranking he gave is what the analyst in him actually believes. His opinion is one of the reasons you come to this website, is it not?

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    • JH says:

      Just so you know…others may look at your “GBeck” handle and think you’re paying homage to a different kind of public figure entirely. Not sure if that bothers you or not, but something to think about :)

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  15. GhettoBear04 says:

    I disagree with weighting the front office that much. I understand if you want to devalue the current team based on the rate of turnover of the average MLB team. I think there are teams with certain makeups that would have reduced level (talent, youth, etc), but let’s go with that. I think that means you should weight the minor league component higher than you seemed to suggest that you were doing.

    However, my biggest disagreement comes even with acceptance of your weighting setup. You considered the Mariners an average team this year (~83 wins); let’s say that’s 14th for the major league component. The Mariners’ minor league system had some promising high-ceiling, big name guys but seemed to have less depth than the top minor league systems. Let’s say that’s good for 12th overall (though it would be higher now).

    Assuming a 50 (FO)- 25 (Majors)- 25 (Minors) breakdown, even a number 1 ranking of the FO would result in a 7.5 ranking. And that’s heavily weighting the FO component and assuming a number 1 ranking. To get to 6, you’re either much more optimistic on your own minor league system or you think that JackZ & Co are that much better than every other major league FO that it counts for even more.

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    • CMC_Stags says:

      The series isn’t FO, Majors, and Minors though. It’s Management, present talent, and future talent. Future roster does not mean minors. It means current players under long term contract (and the club friendliness of those contracts) as well as the minor league system. From the original ranking:

      “The Mariners farm system isn’t among baseball’s best… there is a reason this section is entitled young talent and not farm system.

      “Felix is 23. Franklin Gutierrez is 27. Jose Lopez is 26. Adam Moore is 25. Ryan Rowland-Smith is 27. Every single member of the bullpen is under 30. Simply looking at a ranking of their prospects misses the youth already on the team. They’re not overflowing with young talent like Texas or Tampa Bay, but there’s a young core to build around in place, and the guys on the farm who are legitimate prospects are generally close to the majors.”

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      • Gdawg says:

        Rereading that paragraph is what makes the #6 ranking such a joke. Rowland-Smith, Moore, Lopez??? None of those guys were better than average before this season, but they were apparently a pretty big reason why the Mariners had so much future talent. Lopez before this season had nearly 3000 PAs with a .715 OPS. RRS had 253.1 IP with nothing but a league average FIP. Moore was coming off a disappointing season in the upper levels of the minors. And their young bullpen was pretty much just that, young. There wasn’t any proven shut down pitching in there.

        But of course when this was brought up this past offseason, we were just ignored.

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      • Lucas says:

        Yeah, I mean, as the article even seems to admit, it’s not an overwhelming group of young MLB talent. It’s fine and all, but is it better than that of all but 5 or 10 or even 15 other teams?

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      • GhettoBear04 says:

        Felix is great, but do you really think the Mariners have as much young talent as 18 other organizations? Do they really have a ‘young’ core to build around?

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      • Anders says:

        Of the players just/originally mentioned, only one is particularly young or good. As for having a young bullpen, well ok, but I would think that is the area of building a team where age is least relevant.

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  16. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I really don’t get why the author has to defend an opinion such as a pre season prediction. I read the prediction again and it seemed well reasoned.

    I still don’t think the Ms received enough for Cliff Lee, but who would actually receive Lee’s market value in return?

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    • GhettoBear04 says:

      His Smiles/IP ratio is just incredible. =)

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    • ab03 says:

      Different question: I don’t see why the author is defending the position. Nobody asked him to. He thinks people did but what those people wanted at most was a simple mea culpa because there’s no objective way to defend an average MLB team with an average system having such a high ranking. What happened this year wasn’t even necessary to prove that point. They could have won 83 games and it still wouldn’t have made the rankings any less silly. “Ryan Rowland-Smith is 27” speaks for itself.

      So unless Dave is going to say “I messed up,” or at least acknowledge some of the criticisms of the rankings, I don’t think anybody wants to hear his defense of a ridiculous position. And it’s certainly not going to stop people from making fun of him (although I think it is poor form to do it in the comments of articles completely unrelated to the Mariners).

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      • CMC_Stags says:

        I don’t think you understand the point of the rankings.

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      • DMoore says:

        “I don’t think you understand the point of the rankings.”

        Then please explain the point, in detail.

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      • 198d says:

        The point of the rankings was to predict the strength of each team over the next “five-ish” or so years.

        ab03 is right: even in the best case scenario, to think that Seattle would be stronger than half of the teams behind them in the rankings is asinine. Many of the trailing teams have more current talent, more future talent, a more established front office and more money when compared to Seattle. Weren’t those the criteria? Does being situated in the AL West really carry that much weight? Even assuming an easier ride to the playoffs, how likely is it that they win the WS? Isn’t that really the point?

        That being said, there is no set of rankings that would satisfy everyone. I read ’em, appreciated the insight, and that was that. The actual numerical rankings really didn’t carry much weight for me.

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      • DMoore says:

        “The point of the rankings was to predict the strength of each team over the next “five-ish” or so years.”

        Exactly. So maybe it’s CMC_Stags who ‘doesn’t understand the point of the rankings.’

        Or maybe he does, but claiming someone ‘doesn’t understand’ is easier than defending a fairly indefensible position, such as ranking Seattle #6.

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      • Matt says:

        Just the other day in a chat someone requested that he discuss/defend his reasoning. Unless you’ve read everything on the internet and planted bugs on him, I wouldn’t go around saying “Nobody asked him to.”

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  17. Nick V says:

    I think: “Rather than seeing the list as a prediction of future results, try to see them as a state of the probabilities of success at a given point in time.” is a distinction without a difference, and thus unhelpful. Of course every prediction is made by inputting data and then letting the klinko pucks fall where they may. Like it or not, these are predictions, unless “organizational health” means something other than on the field performance.

    Now, 2010 winning % wasn’t the only thing you were trying to predict (this has been made very clear). But either the placement was wrong and you shouldn’t stand by the #6 placement, or you do stand by it and, given what we know about 2010, maybe they are bumped down a few spots, but nothing major. Just own it, whatever it is. If you stand by the #6 ranking, then tell me that the Mariners’ FO is capable of turning this ship around in the coming years and why you think it.

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  18. Tom says:

    Aren’t you basically saying that results don’t matter, but that the process for making decisions is more important? To me, this is the biggest problem with a site like this (and some others) in that the thinking behind making a move is more important than the actual result. The problem is that you can spin nearly every decision into a positive light:

    “OIf course we traded Babe Ruth for $100,000. Not only was Ruth fat and was too interested in the nightlife and not dedicated enough to keep himself in shape but we don’t think that hitting HR’s is going to be a viable strategy for the future. There is no way he’s going to continue to hit 12% of the league’s total HR or have the AL team average by himself. Plus, with that money invested into a lavish Broadway musical, I’m quadruple my investment and we’ll be able to trade for Walter Johnson.”

    That makes sense, doesn’t it?

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    • philosofool says:

      If you decide to go get some ice cream and Mac Truck runs into the circle K while you’re there, killing you as you hand over $5.50 for your Ben and Jerry’s, we don’t go to your funeral calling you an idiot for going to get ice cream, but the results of your decision were terrible.

      You have to evaluate decisions base on how people make them. One of the things you have to recognize after the fact is that the results give you information about how you made your decision. If you got the results you wanted, then you should continue in the process, if not, you should probably examine the process before you use it again. That’s a different thing from saying that we evaluate decision by the results we get.

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      • Tom says:

        Wrong, as we aren’t talking about real life but baseball. The process doesn’t matter, only the results. “The Process” was invented by GMs to explain poor moves.

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      • Sam says:

        “If you decide to go get some ice cream and Mac Truck runs into the circle K while you’re there, killing you as you hand over $5.50 for your Ben and Jerry’s, we don’t go to your funeral calling you an idiot for going to get ice cream, but the results of your decision were terrible.”

        This is an incredibly far-fetched example where result is entirely driven by randomness of an event that has a minuscule probability of happening. The offensive performance of the Mariners is most certainly not an accident of such proportions.

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      • philosofool says:

        Okay, let’s have a non-far fetched example, since the fact that it is far fetched is completely irrelevant to the point (which you seem to have missed) and merely illustrative. You acquire a pitcher with 10 consecutive 160+ K season and a career 2.4 BB/9, who has not pitched fewer than 180 IP in any of that time and is only 34 years old. The guy you’re signing has all the indications of being a positive addition to any rotation. Then the guy has the worst season of his career. It happens. But it’s foolish to judge that decision based on results and not on process.

        @Tom So there’s no such thing as a good decision with a bad outcome, or a bad decision with a good one, in baseball? Indeed, if you can’t know the results ahead of time, how do you even evaluate choices on your “results only” view? Yeah, you can spin stuff in whatever way you like to make yourself look good, but it’s just foolish, insincere, post hoc rationalization. We’re talking about assessing the inputs that went into decision, and how those inputs were handled, not bullshitting about it after the fact. You can understand the difference, can’t you?

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      • Danmay says:

        “The problem is that you can spin nearly every decision into a positive light,” I agree with this statement.

        However, it is precisely because it is so easy to put a positive on any line of thinking that makes having good analysts so valuable. In my opinion, the ability to objectively review the process is one of the greatest strengths of Fangraphs. Fangraphs, more than any other baseball site I read, places a strong emphasis on accountability and on defending arguments when they are picked apart in the comments section. For instance, if any analyst on Fangraphs does simply put a positive spin on their arguments they will most likely be told so in the comments (I hope we can all see plenty of examples of this).

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      • Sam says:

        “Okay, let’s have a non-far fetched example, since the fact that it is far fetched is completely irrelevant to the point (which you seem to have missed) and merely illustrative.”

        I did not miss anything. You had an example where the conditional event (someone going out for whatever reason and getting hit by a truck) in extremely rare. A player counted on to do well who sucked is not all that rare.

        As for the guy you mention, his velocity is down this year, is an extreme flyball guy and he has transitioned to the most difficult league in a ballpark which favors the home run ball.

        There was at least some reason to suspect it may not work out. The loss of velocity is not really an accident, and certainly was under the realm of possible outcomes, particularly for a guy who has that much mileage on his arm.

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  19. tdotsports1 says:

    I wrote a piece at the old blog that might have changed the Jays outlook slightly for this season if Halladay had just stuck around and the Jays decided to keep him… Click the link if interested.

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  20. Andrew says:

    You’re probably right that predictions should not be taken serious because they are essentially worthless. Keeping that in mind, would it be possible if you notified the readers which of your posts are going to be worthless beforehand rather than months later from now on? Thanks.

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  21. Conshy Matt says:

    #6 is too high now matter how you analyze it. however, there are hundreds if not thousands of predictions made before the season and rarely to ever does someone actually come back to defend their preseason prediction. kudos to dave for that.

    having said that, it was a poor assessment likely caused by being too close to a particular organization. it can happen to anyone.

    i don’t see what’s so hard about admitting the mistake though. after what’s transpired on the field this year, there is no way that dave or anyone can feel that good about next year’s prospects (or the year after that) for the M’s. dave, are you expecting some of the players who have “underperformed” to be better next year? lopez? gutierrez? rowland-smith? anyone? back to the drawing board, as they say.

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    • BIP says:

      The organizational rankings were not a set of predictions.

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      • Bad Bill says:

        You keep saying that, but in fact they WERE a set of predictions. The disconnect is that the conditions necessary to evaluate whether the predictions were any good won’t be satisfied for a couple of years yet, and are not necessarily what we think they are. If you can’t “predict” from a team’s organizational ranking whether it’s going to get better or worse in the future, then the ranking isn’t good for much. But you won’t know whether that “prediction” was valid until there is enough of a track record to judge whether the team did in fact improve.

        Is there anybody here who denies that a sufficiently good ranking system will have predictive value? That is, that more teams given a good ranking will eventually be found to have improved (or remained at the top if they were already there) than teams given a bad ranking? If so, please explain your reasoning.

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  22. philosofool says:

    About a week ago, there was a discussion on Lookout Landing about “the process” that went into the M’s this season. The initial claim was “Hey, we (M’s fans) got unlucky, because we had a well built team that simply didn’t perform to reasonable expectations.” One rather notable LL alumnus, Graham MacAree, dissented. “I’m not sure the process was right,” he said (I’m summarizing), “it seems to me like when you expect x and get y, you have to weigh your expectation against your result and adjust accordingly. Or, don’t ignore results that don’t correspond to your expectations–they may be telling you something about your expectations.”

    In this post, you acknowledge that (obviously) you have new information about the M’s and wouldn’t rank them the same way, but, on the other hand, with the information you had at the time, you maintain that you made the right call, at the time. But I think there’s another way to ask the question “would you make the same prediction now?” and that has to do with the process. In short, have we learned something about the way the M’s tried to build a team, or is this just bad luck?

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    • JMHawkins says:

      “But I think there’s another way to ask the question “would you make the same prediction now?” and that has to do with the process. In short, have we learned something about the way the M’s tried to build a team, or is this just bad luck?”

      philosofool, that really is the relevant question. I think it’s pretty obvious the most common disagreements about #6org center on the front office part. Either 1) Dave weighted it too much, or 2) the M’s FO wasn’t nearly as good as he thought, or (1+2=3), both.

      On option 1 (weighted it too much), I really do think the jury has to still be out on that, despite some excellent observations in this thread. GhettoBear’s point about needing to give the FO more than 50% of the weight to get to #6 is a really great point. But even so, it doesn’t automatically follow that 50% is obviously too high. The Red Sox haven’t finished below .500 for 13 years. The Royals have finished above .500 once in the last 16 years. The last time KC won more games than BOS Andre Dawson was still playing and A-Rod was in his first year of minor league ball. Their respective rosters have turned over many times since then – I don’t think a single guy from either team is still playing.

      The difference has to be the FO. Over the last 20 years, the score is BOS: 10 playoff appearances and 2 WS rings, KC: zero playoff appearances (the closest they came was 3 games back in the WC race in the strike season).

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  23. kablammo says:

    Can you give an estimated percentage of what aspects were put into your rankings…. example… 2010 team (40%) Future (40%) Front office (20%)
    Just because in my opinion the jays have a better future, about the same Front office, and although they have a better team in 2010 that was not expected…. so it seems a large emphasis was put on 2010… any ways that is my question

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  24. rotofan says:

    I’ve greatly enjoyed USS Mariner and I don’t think Dave Cameron exhibits bias for the team but he does have a bias nonetheless that I think surfaced in his rankings.

    Cameron believes that successful team exploit market inefficiencies. He endured years of Mariners management that did precisely the opposite. So when the new regime embraced that philosophy and executed trades based on it, Cameron was thrilled — as were most knowledgeable Mariners’ fans.

    That thrill can cause even the most objective of fans — and I would place Cameron in that category — to give management the benefit of the doubt that subsequent moves will work. Cameron was still highly critical of some Mariners moves, mind you, the trading of Cameron or the handling of Griffey as examples. But perhaps moves closer to the line between clearly good and bad were viewed with more enthusiasm than was warranted.

    By the way, I’m not suggesting Cameron is wrong about market inefficiencies: Who could intelligently argue its opposite. But it’s not enough to embrace the theory. One also must properly identify the inefficiencies and then execute moves that exploit them.

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  25. Omar says:

    After looking at the original list there’s a few rankings that stick out to me, in both positive and negative aspects these rankings being: the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Diego Padres, the Cincinnati Reds, the San Fransisco Giants, and the Seattle Mariners. I’d like to see a retrospective on all the teams that were off, not just the Seattle Mariners, anyways since this is an article about the Mariners lets start off with them, I brought this up when there was some recent chatter in the original Mariners thread:

    . I think we as stat heads overrate the “process” and its ability to produce future results. There are several teams who on the surface really don’t look like they’ve had the best “process” but seem to make things work; or have the resources to overcome bad decisions. The As were miles ahead of everyone “process” wise but eventually the rest of baseball caught up. Same goes for the Mariners, even if Jack Z is Billy Beane, Logan White, and Branch Rickey combined eventually the higher payrolled teams will put together a comparably competent front office and blow the Ms away.

    While I do think the Mariners are in good hands, I think it’s foolish to place them higher on this list than organizations who have realistic shots at winning a rock in the next three to four years based on their current talent and talent in the farm but who might not be all that well ran. Take the Phillies for instance, I think if we had to wager which teams wins a WS first in the next ten years the Phillies or the Mariners most people would overwhelmingly pick the Phillies. They have a wealth of current talent, play in a weak division and played for a championship the past couple of years; whereas the Mariners won’t have two players who crack an .800 OPS for quite sometime. While the Mariners will (likely) make better decisions than the Phillies over the next decade; the Phillies’ past riches such as Chase Utley and Roy Halladay will pay dividends for the next three or four years and put them in a better situation for the foreseeable future.

    The Phillies simply have had a better start, the Ms will have to do some masterful drafting, and we’ve seen high ceiling young talent in the draft either flame out or fail to live up to expectations and be merely average, or slightly above, as opposed to the MVP caliber player they’d need them to be so their record will reflect the ratings here. Overall, I don’t think the Mariners are a “bad” organization, per se. I just feel that they need to add lots of talent to their current roster. They don’t have any franchise crippling contracts and they seem to be able to make money…they should turn it around; I just don’t think that they’re the sixth best organization in baseball.

    Another thing I’d like to comment on is that a lot of people made a big fuss over Jack Z making great trades by taking advantage of a dumb GM…to me that doesn’t mean that a GM is necessarily a good GM; more that the other GM is just a bad one. I’m sure anyone would have made that Cliff Lee trade if they were in Jack Z’s shoes, except Ruben Amaro apparently…same with the Silva trade even though it seems that the Ms got the short end on that one. For me, to be a good GM you not only have to swindle bad GMs you also have to recognize which players in your farm aren’t good fits for your organization and you need to be able to part with good players to get good players. Not every trade will be a complete screw job, there won’t always be a dumb GM with a player that he hates that’ll fit your needs. This last paragraph may be a bit incoherent, but I feel that complete screw job trades like the Swisher trade, the Colon trade, the Lee trade, and the Casey Blake trade overrate the GMs on the winning end; when IMO it says more about the losing GM than the winning one.

    A lot of people brought up Texas’ talent producing machine, while Texas has built quite the player development machine lets not forget that Jack Z has had quite the career as a director of player development for the Brewers. If I were a Ms fan I’d have a high degree of confidence with him in charge making the decisions on the high draft picks for the next few years. Although, rather than focusing on the future; lets look at the past moves that Jack Z has made:

    First, the Cliff Lee trade(s):

    To turn JC Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies into Blake Beaven and Justin Smoak, not to mention a half year of Cliff Lee. Great move all around, taking a bright young cost controlled asset from a division rival was a great move. Not to mention it allowed my Yankees to keep Jesus Montero. ;)

    The Chone Figgins deal was a move I hated. Were talking about a 32 year old player whose skillset doesn’t age particularly well and who has been overrated throughout his career and been about an average-ish offensive player. Can he help a club get over a hump? Probably, is he at all the “missing piece” for the Mariners? Absolutely not. While it’s not a franchise crippling move, it certainly not a move that the Ms should have made.

    Then there was the Bradley deal, I loved it at the time; didn’t work out well for them so much this year but getting a team to take the rest of Carlos Silva’s contract was a good move; even if the player they got in return hasn’t helped much.

    The Morrow deal looks quite a bit worse now, although I feel that Brand Morrow really needed a change of scenery. It’s unfair to criticize Zduriencik for realizing this; that being said he could have gotten a better player out of the deal.

    Now, being fair to Zduriencik, he really hasn’t had a good FA market to choose from. Whenever there’s been an elite FA available a larger market contending team has always offered him a massive contract. He also was given the task of cleaning up after the worst GMs of the past twenty years, who left him with a fairly barren team. As far as ranking the Ms goes, I definitely feel that their process and decision making is in the upper third of baseball. I have far more confidence in them as an organization than I do teams with much better crops of current talent and better farms like the Marlins, the Mets, and the Cubs. However, I feel ranking them ahead of teams like the Blue Jays, the Rockies, the Twins, and the Phillies may be a bit dishonest if were talking about the club’s chances of winning a Championship. Good decision making, smart trades and contracts are all well and good; however at a certain point we must look past over overpaying a couple of guys and being a little too fast and easy when dealing prospects.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      “To turn JC Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies into Blake Beaven and Justin Smoak, not to mention a half year of Cliff Lee. ” Can’t really tell whether this was a plus deal for the Mariners, as the jury is still out on the Phillies’ prospects. Also, the 1/2 season the Phillies received from Lee was much more meaningful than the 1/2 season the Ms received from Lee.

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      • JH says:

        The Phillies’ prospects weren’t any good, and still aren’t. Aumont has potential as a reliever, Ramirez as a #4 starter, and Gillies as a good 5th outfielder or a pretty poor 4th outfielder. If Smoak’s even a league average 1B, the Mariners system is better off for the Lee trade.

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      • Lucas says:

        I don’t disagree, but league-average for a 1b is not exactly a low bar. That’s what, Billy Butler; Carlos Pena?

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      • BS says:

        Eh, while I’ll be the first to criticize the Lee for Aumont, Ramirez and Gillies trade, when you go into 2nd and 3rd degree trades, things feel dodgy for me. I think each trade needs to be reviewed independently (unless a deal is made concurrently)

        For example, if you were Ruben Amaro and someone offered you: 1/2 season of Cliff Lee, Ramirez, Aumont and Gillies for Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp, suddenly that deal looks like a big win for Amaro.

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      This in no way takes away from your opinion but the Mariners were ranked behind the Twins (#5).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Omar says:

        IIRC the top five orgs were:

        The Yankees
        The Red Sox
        The Rays
        The Rangers
        The Braves
        The Ms
        The Rockies
        The Twins

        If that wasn’t the case replace the Twins with the Braves.

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  26. Omar says:

    “It seems that the consensus is that a team that I saw as .500ish in 2010 should not have ranked so highly, since their talent base is not as impressive as several teams ranked behind them. However, I see players as very fickle assets. You can easily have a franchise player like Grady Sizemore or Jose Reyes quickly lose almost all of their value, ”

    Perhaps that’s something else that should be considered too. Grady Sizemore was a player who had a “balls to the wall” playing style that made him prone to injuries not to mention that he has “old player skills” and a very high K-rate. Jose Reyes never really had that much patience and there was a Will Carroll article in the past that suggested that young fast players are particularly injury prone because that a bad acceleration could mean a tweaked hammy which could lead them to be out for a few weeks. Not to mention that he only really had one season that could be considered “elite.” Perhaps the franchise tag was applied a bit too soon in his case.

    “and I do not believe that an organization’s overall health should depend on the performance of a small handful of players.”

    Well typically a team’s season depends on the performance of a small handful of players in 2008 the Phillies’ WC run depended largely on Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, and Ryan Howard. So if a season depends on the performance of a small handful why shouldn’t the health of the organization? I mean take the Indians for example they’ve been lauded for “process” for the past decade but only made the playoffs, what? Twice? I’m not saying that the health of an organization fully depends on a small handful of players, but surely it’s largely effected by a small group of players. It’s foolish to suggest otherwise. Suppose David Price, Evan Longoria, and Matt Garza all got hit by a bus, wouldn’t that severely effect the health of the Rays organization? Conversely suppose the Mariners had Joey Votto, Ryan Zimmerman, and Josh Johnson…wouldn’t that also severely effect the organizational health of the Mariners too? I do agree with you that good front office can make a lot of difference, but they also have to have good players to start out with. It’s a long road taking a weak team with very little assets and making them into a division champion. I think maybe it was a bit foolish to be so bullish on a team with such glaring deficiencies offensively and even in the rotation after Cliff Lee inevitably left.

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  27. My echo and bunnymen says:

    I’ve always looked at the top teams (at least in the 6-10 area) as almost interchangable. If my memory serves me, Atlanta was #8, and I believed they before the list came out should be ahead of Seattle, though I myself would also rate their organization high. I find those two interchangable and arguing about placement, pointless. It’s baseball and failing 6 out of ten times (hitting) means I’m cashing a good paycheck. So in a very unpredictable world a man predicts wrong and backlash occurs. Ridiculous

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  28. NickL says:

    Here’s the thing I wonder, Dave.

    Your special expertise re. baseball is what Bill James called “outsider” expertise: indeed, the whole SABER edifice is built on outsiderhood, on knowing that one is not an insider, can never be an insider, and therefore needs to develop other kinds of tools for understanding the game: to realize that one’s “weakness” is in many ways a strength.

    Now it seems to me that evaluating a front office is, inevitably, a game for insiders. Sure, on occasion one can point to a long trail of analysis-friendly decisions–but I think much of the fanboi excitement about the Mariners (“OMG they don’t do weights weights are so 20th century!”) was based not on examining a long trail of analysis-friendly decisions, but on fanboi projection that, yes, this WOULD be the new SABER-friendly team. And that projection was based on the illusion of insiderhood: the easiest illusion for devout fans to get caught up in.

    Love of “process”, love of the way a team handles media, love of a sophisticated workout regime: fine…..But if you use that love as the basis for judging a front office, you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking you’re an insider.

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  29. CircleChange11 says:

    I’d argue that this is more of a “reasonable people can disagree” issue than a “oh my god you are a biased moron” issue, though.

    I completely agree.

    This is where I ask you “How do you like your steak?”, hand you a beer, and I get back to the grill, as we change the subject to something else.

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  30. Peter says:

    Has anyone looked at the performance of the Seattle roster this year, and compared each player to their median preseason projections? Seems like this would be an objective way to see to what degree there was some unexpected “bad luck.” I believe the team was projected to win something like 78 to 82 wins…

    I don’t pretend to have any idea where Seattle should have ranked. But I wanted to respond to a few comments.

    1. I thought ThundaPC’s comment was a very strong defense of the #6 ranking. Tampa Bay was almost certainly a top 5 organization in January 2008, despite the fact that they’d been bad forever up to that point.

    2. As CMC_Stags implies, a ranking of organizations is also implicitly ranking the owners, to the degree that they hire the GM who assembles the FO and roster.

    3. Nick V said: “Like it or not, these are predictions, unless “organizational health” means something other than on the field performance.”

    This is problematic though. Sometimes a team seems to have what it needs to perform well but it doesn’t carry over. Using Seattle history as an example, why didn’t they win it all in 2001 when they were by far the best team? How did St Louis win it all despite barely finishing over .500? I, and many others, thought highly of Cleveland for 3 or 4 years there, but for the most part they fell on their faces despite Sabathia, Cliff Lee, V Martinez, Hafner, etc etc. I’m a complete amateur, but I would have ranked them highly at least in terms of the FO and the major league talent, but the on the field performance didn’t follow for whatever reason.

    4. I was surprised to read this:

    “Wrong, as we aren’t talking about real life but baseball. The process doesn’t matter, only the results. “The Process” was invented by GMs to explain poor moves.”

    How about this then Tom: your conclusion is wrong. I’m really speechless as to how else to respond to that. If I go up against Halladay and close my eyes and swing and hit a HR, then I’m a good hitter? Isn’t it obvious that my process was horrible and that future success would be unlikely to follow? There are a million examples like this in baseball. How about the game-winning hit against Rivera that won Arizona the world series? That was not a well-hit ball, but it fell in. Bloops fall in, liners get caught, but batters should still try to hit line drives in pursuit of the correct “process,” even if their last 2 liners were caught and the guy in front of him keeps getting bloop hits.

    5. Andrew, Hank, and Nick – it wasn’t a prediction. Argh.

    6. I highly recommend Omar’s first lengthy comment, and it’s a strong argument against the #6 ranking. This part was telling: “While the Mariners will (likely) make better decisions than the Phillies over the next decade; the Phillies’ past riches such as Chase Utley and Roy Halladay will pay dividends for the next three or four years and put them in a better situation for the foreseeable future.”

    I think Dave might say the team making better decisions deserves the higher ranking, while most of us would say no, the team more likely to win a championship the soonest should be ranked higher (which is why we keep alluding to the rankings as predictions).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • hunterfan says:

      How can we objectively measure whether a team makes better decisions or not (aka “the process”) without looking at whether those decisions work out (aka “the results”)?

      Sure, an individual decision might run into some bad luck but overall, if you make a lot of decisions, the great majority should work out, assuming they were good decisions.

      Where does the bad luck excuse end when it is consistently met with poor or middling results?

      If one consistently makes “good” decisions but experiences only mediocre results, maybe they weren’t good decisions after all.

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  31. zoned says:

    “This is, I believe, where the largest disconnect in opinions comes from. I do believe that I value the non-player aspects of an organization more than most, or at least, that’s my perception based on the responses I’ve seen. In my opinion, the most important aspect of an organization’s future health is their continued access to capital and their ability to spend resources wisely.”

    The problem with this is things are not as black and white as “Good GM” vs “Bad GM.” I remember, years ago, you shilled the Cleveland Indians front office harder than you shilled Jack Z this offseason. Well, it’s 2010 and the Indians have been in constant sell mode since the 2007 playoffs where you claimed that they were in such a better position than the Tigers, White Sox and Twins who had won the previous titles only to fall back to earth.

    Front office talent shouldn’t be viewed in a completely different scope from player talent. There are prospects, guys who succeed despite bad process and guys who fail despite good process. At this point, Jack Z and his team are similar in my eyes to Jay Bruce. They had a decent pedigree coming in to their big time MLB job, started out with a bang, then faltered despite mostly good ideas. But they aren’t infallible and they haven’t always done the right thing. Where they made mistakes is debatable (for instance, the Smoak/Montero debate) but they have made them.

    I also think another problem is we (hard to define “we” – the stat community, fangraphs, Seattle?) are placing too much faith in the current defensive statistics. We always have these caveats – UZR is still relatively new, not perfect, highly variable, etc – but do we listen to them? In your response to Joe Posnaski’s article, you slam him for using pythagorean record because it’s outdated and doesn’t actually tell us what we need to know like third order record or whatever. Well, 10 years ago pythagorean record was gospel like UZR is now. How do we know that tUZR+ in 10 years won’t tell us that Chone Figgins was an average to below average defender?

    I know the response to this will be something along the lines of “What we supposed to do? Not use what we have at all? This is the best we have to work with.” My point isn’t that. It’s that defensive statistics aren’t developed enough and are too variable to build an entire team around. If it takes 3 years for UZR to stabilize and some guys are susceptible to massive variation from year to year, why would you use it to build a team for 1 year around? If some team signed Barry Bonds right now, his production would be highly variable. He could be the old Barry, he could completely bust since he’s old and has been out of the league or could do something in between. For the league minimum, maybe he’s not a bad risk. As a large sum investment, however, that’s not a good deal. Stock brokers and bond buyers will tell you the same thing. No one’s going to build a portfolio solely out of high risk investments that will either go under or make you 15+% gains

    For now, defense should be used as an accessory. Can you pick up Franklin Gutierrez, a guy UZR and scouts both like, who profiles a lot better in center than right for a salary dump of an injured closer? That’s a good use of statistics. Did you just invest $36 million in a 32 year old whose value is largely tied up in his defense to replace a guy who is one of the best defensive players in the game? Maybe not the best use…

    Then I imagine you overrate moves that you shouldn’t just because they’re “good process” ie moves you would make. Is Ryan Langerhans really a difference maker? Is trading Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley anything more than a crapshoot?

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  32. Tree Climber says:

    “Seattle is not a Boston or New York, but they’re a profitable organization that is consistently in the top tier of revenues and payroll, and has a management team in place that knows how to build a winner.”

    What a load of bunk.

    The Mariner are one of only 8 MLB teams that haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. Sure Jack Z led the Brewers to the playoff… 1 time in his 10th year with the club.

    Their revenues and payroll are not top tier. They typically rank around 10th in revenue well behind the mega-rich in NY, Bos, Cubs, & LA. For the past 3 years even the Astros have more total revenue than the Mariners.

    Typical dribble from a typical Mariner fan.

    Keep drinking the kool-aid.

    -12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JH says:

      How exactly do the 2003-2008 seasons reflect in any way whatsoever on Jack Zduriencik’s front office?

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  33. bookbook says:

    Dave, I find you almost always interesting, a great source of insight and a strong perspective, and of course, crazy condescending. I suspect the latter is what #6.org was all about (though your detractors are mostly simple-minded jerks).

    I hope the next few years prove you right about the ranking. It does feel to me that the M’s are assembling an impressive amount of prospective talent in the minors, despite their love of 39 year old DH’s (and 4 1B’s in Tacoma).

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  34. epoc says:

    The problem with this whole situation, for me, is just that it’s so frustrating and intellectually dissatisfying. Usually the things that get written at this site have an objective basis, but the whole organizational ranking series and its subsequent defense don’t have any discernible objective basis. There have been no definitive standards set for exactly what the rankings measured or how they measured it. It’s all a bunch of opinions supported by further opinions. Arguing about it is like arguing about religion. Dave has a fundamental belief that the Mariners are a vibrantly (but vaguely) healthy organization, and his evidence is his further belief that the FO is smart and the roster has a lot of young talent (among other things). But without any effort to quantify these things or their relation to organizational health (or whatever), there’s really no *there* there. So people who don’t share the fundamental beliefs that Ryan Rowland-Smith represents good young talent or that the Mariner FO is smart are going to be extremely frustrated by those bald assertions.

    So what I’m getting at is that the only way to have a satisfying conversation about this sort of thing is to develop some objective standards and quantifiable measurements for these rankings. That’s what sabermetrics is about, right? Science? Asking the question is measurable form and then answering it through objective analysis? All of this other stuff is just a shouting match.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BS says:

      Heh, I hear the Mariners FO has a lot of grit, hustle and character. =P

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • hunterfan says:

      The fact that Dave or others has NEVER simply stated an objective measurement in terms of how each individual component was weighted makes me believe there was absolutely none…therefore making the whole 6org thing nothing but a bar room-type opinion on what he thought of Jack Z and the Mariners in general versus other organizations..

      I would like to be proven wrong and have Dave come in and say what components were given what weight, but being that he has had ample time and opportunity to do so over the course of 5 months with people asking him to do so, and so far he has not, makes me believe there is none.

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  35. DrBGiantsfan says:

    IMO, this all comes down to a simple irrational exuberance on Dave’s part for the new GM of his favorite team. Jack Z may yet turn out to be the long lost heir to Branch Rickey, but it’s waaay too soon to tell. In the meantime, the other two parts to the equation, present talent and future talent in the system got totally brushed aside in the stampede to crown Jack Z the new Genius of Baseball.

    I also believe(though cannot prove) that Jack’s apparent embrace of defensive metrics, practically this website’s reason for existence played no small part in this. Not to knock defensive metrics, but trying to build a team based exclusively on defensive metrics is rapidly being shown to be a faulty blueprint.

    Finally, I believe there was substantial bias in the ranking of the SF Giants(I think you can tell from my handle that I am an unabashed Giants fan, so I admit to my own biases). Dave goes way back with Grant over on mccoveyhronicles.com. Now Grant runs a great website, but his criticisms of Giants management have recently reached a point of near irrationality. I believe that is Dave’s major source of information about Giants management which led him to completely ignore the wealth of young talent they have amassed on the MLB team and in the minors as well as a pretty darn good recent track record in the MLB Draft.

    All of the above just an opinion from a biased Giants fan.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      If you have doubts about my analysis of Grant’s mindset, just go check out his current post, “Why the Guillen Trade Makes Me Sad.” Grant just hammers this RBI point home ad nauseum. The thing is, Sabean has made some poor decisions and some good ones, but I guarantee you that even Brian Sabean does not just look at RBI’s in evaluating players. To believe that is simply irrational which is what Grant has become in regards to both Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy.

      BTW, the Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe and Andres Torres signings make me very happy as does the drafting of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      I have no idea who Grant is. I’ve never talked with him. I have no idea why you’re just making stuff up.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I am about 90% sure you are lying, because Grant has mentioned communicating with you many times on mccoveychronicles.com.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I certainly can’t say that you’ve ever talked directly to Grant, but I do know that you read mccoveychronicles.com:

        1. You recommended it on your site.

        2. Here’s you quoting him: “McCovey Chronicles on the Winn deal: ‘It isn’t often that a trade can help your favorite team, and still leave you discouraged.’ Fair enough, if a bit Morrissey-inflected”

        You don’t think that source might have just a bit of influence on how you view the Brian Sabean and his decision making? I sure do!

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        You want to call me an idiot? Fine. You want to say that everything I write is worthless? No problem.

        You want to publicly assert that I’m lying? Go the hell away.

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      • hunterfan says:

        Dave, so you say you don’t know who the guy is, then the poster has a quote from you where you reference him….and you tell him to go the hell away?

        Interesting.

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      • Ray says:

        2. Here’s you quoting him: “McCovey Chronicles on the Winn deal: ‘It isn’t often that a trade can help your favorite team, and still leave you discouraged.’ Fair enough, if a bit Morrissey-inflected”

        1. That was five years ago.

        2. That wasn’t Dave.

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  36. Paul says:

    My one and only problem with the ranking is that supporters (in general) pounced on anybody who dissented. They essentially portrayed as knuckle-dragging heathens anybody who thought the defensive efficiency thing was overblown, and that applying anything more than about a 1% probability that Milton Bradley would stop being Milton Bradley was just silly. Good taste requires a simple apology, in my opinion.

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  37. Will You Apologize? says:

    Milton Bradley’s wOBA, by year, since his breakout season in 2003:

    .397
    .342
    .363
    .362
    .405
    .423
    .345

    This year: .289

    You’re right, there was no way anyone should have expected Milton Bradley to stop being Milton Bradley. Lazy analysis, Paul.

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  38. Angel Pagan's agent says:

    Would it be possible for the folks who feel the need to explain what Mr Cameron actually meant to stfu and let Mr Cameron answer the questions?

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    • Ben says:

      Exactly

      That is half the problem with all of this. Cameron’s backers are supporting with such fervor and exuberance that anyone that speaks out is on this subject when it first came out and now are routinely attacked.

      People need to take a step back and realize that in many ways their own inherent bias, due to their association with DA with his website, Fangraphs, or the Mariners in general are causing more problems than anything else. Let DC speak for himself.

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  39. Brian says:

    You said: “Seattle… has a management team in place that knows how to build a winner.”

    Now I know phrases like that are open to interpretation, but is this accurate?

    Jack Z, while skilled, came from the scouting department in Milwaukee. They had a decent run for a few years, but was that a “winner” they put together? Did he “build” it, or supply the information to the FO and contribute pieces through draft choices?

    In my experience, comments like the quoted one refer to a guy’s experience and track record, not his future or potential. While the SABR community, Mariners fans, or whoever may be excited about what Jack Z will be able to do now that he is handling the reins, I think it’s a pretty big reach to say so confidently that he knows how to build a winner. It would be more accurate to say that he knows how to draft some good players, evaluates talent well, and seems to think through things well. At this point, though, you are hoping/expecting that he WILL build a winner.

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  40. WilsonC says:

    A part of the controversy, I think, has to do with a difference between how the articles were written and how the rankings were apparently done.

    For each organization, there was a full article on present talent, another article on future talent, and then a summary article that included future talent, present talent, and management. The natural implication here is that the majority of the rankings is based on the present and future talent in an organization, with some consideration being given to management.

    In this instance, there were two and two thirds articles suggesting that the Mariners were about average, and a few paragraphs at the end of the summary article saying that the front office was very good, as well as justifying the opinion that a strong front office can be evaluated before it achieves results and recognizing that it would create controversy. There’s little focused analysis of the front office in any article, so readers are left with a few paragraphs of mostly rhetoric overriding the bulk of the real analysis which portrays the organization’s talent as about average.

    I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to give a lot of weight to the front office, and I certainly agree that there’s a lot of factors beyond the quality of talent that have an enormous impact on the health of an organization. In the future, however, I’d recommend a full article on the non-player aspects of each organization if it’s weighted as heavily as it appears to be here. Without that aspect of analysis, it’s natural for readers to look at those elements as a “little things” factor, since that’s how the focus of the writing treats them. The M’s intuitively rate well as far as the non-player factors go, but without a transparent process with an objective method of rating these factors, it can come across as hand waving.

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  41. Peter says:

    A few people have asked about exactly how far the M’s have underperformed this year. One attempt at an objective answer was made by Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory in an insider-only article on espn.com, but summarized here:

    http://www.ussmariner.com/2010/08/27/a-glass-three-eighths-full-reasons-for-optimism/

    The short version is they underperformed their marcel projection by more than all but 3 other teams, scoring only 73% of the amount of expected runs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  42. pirate says:

    fangraphs is dead

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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