Organizational Rankings: #6 – Seattle

The presumption is going to be that I put the Mariners at #6 because I’m a biased homer – I am well aware of that. I could spend a few paragraphs explaining how I didn’t compile this by myself and generally attempt to defend myself against the claims of bias, but I’d rather just put those words to use explaining the logic behind the ranking, and then you can think what you will.

Each organization is being graded on different aspects that affect how well the team will play going forward. Since this will undoubtedly be the most controversial ranking of the series, I’ll break down each segment.

Present Talent

The 2010 Mariners are not a great team. It’s pretty easy to look at the roster and find problems – they lack offense, the back end of the rotation is a question mark, the closer has had one good major league season, etc… The upgrades on the roster pushed them into 83-85 win territory in terms of true talent level. Put them in the American League East, and they’d likely be fighting the Orioles for fourth place. In the AL West, however, there are no Yankees or Red Sox, as all four teams are pretty evenly matched. So, while the team is flawed, they also have a pretty decent chance of making the playoffs. There simply aren’t that many teams in baseball that are going into the 2010 season with a roughly one in four chance of playing in October.

This team isn’t just designed to steal a division title and get waxed in the ALDS, either. The team is banking on several high variance players, and they won’t succeed without good years from the likes of Milton Bradley and Erik Bedard. That is certainly a risky proposition, but there’s no denying the upside that comes in a scenario where both stay healthy and perform near their talent levels. Their mean projections are dragged heavily down by the risk (as they should be), but the distribution of expected outcomes is not clumped around the middle – they will likely either boom or bust, and take the team with them whichever way they go. This team is not very likely to win 83 to 85 games. Instead, they’ll probably win 75 or 90. If it doesn’t work, they’ll be sellers at the deadline and go young in the second half. If it does work, though, the other three AL playoff clubs would be staring at having to defeat a team that throws Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, and Bedard in a playoff series. No one is going to sign up for that assignment.

The combination of a winnable division and a high variance roster gives the Mariners a legitimate chance at winning the World Series this year, even with a roster that has plenty of warts. They’re not the favorites, certainly, but if you ran the 2010 season 1,000 times, the Mariners would end up champions in a non-trivial amount of them. They’d also finish last a bunch of times, which is part of the risk they’ve had to accept. But we cannot ignore the fact that among the 30 MLB clubs, Seattle is more likely to win the title in 2010 than most of their competitors.

Future Talent

The Mariners farm system isn’t among baseball’s best. They have a couple of premium prospects in Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, but they don’t match up with the systems that boast a lot of high ceiling guys. However, 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.

This isn’t a team that has a short window to contend. They’re likely to be even better in 2011 and beyond than they will be in 2010 – the problem for them is that is true of most of the rest of the division as well.

Management

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.

I understand that there’s a large contingency of people who believe that we should not presume intelligence until success has been displayed on the field, and that we should infer that an organization is well run once the fruits of their labor of have been reaped, and those are the people who are going to hate this ranking. I simply have a philosophical disagreement with you on how we should evaluate our expectations for the future. Just as we can separate Jason Heyward from a normal outfield prospect despite the fact that he has accomplished nothing at the big league level, I believe we can also evaluate an organization’s ability to put a winning team on the field before they do so.

The term “process” has become a cliche in referring to front offices, but quite simply, there are few better examples of an organization that is blending traditional scouting with new ways of thinking than the Mariners. The GM is one of the most respected scouts in the game, and his right hand man is an accountant who went out and hired Tom Tango as one of his first orders of business. Teams that have blended both ways of thinking into their decision-making process have been tremendously successful, and this is the path the Mariners have set themselves upon.

The Seattle front office knows how to evaluate talent, and they know how to value talent. Organizations that do both things well, and are given a payroll of $100 million to boot, win a lot of baseball games.

I knew putting the Mariners at #6 would generate a significant amount of backlash and claims of bias. But, in my estimation, when you actually look at their chances of winning in 2010, the group of young talent they can build around going forward, the quality of the decision making in the front office, and their financial resources, this is where they belong. After years of being a joke, the Mariners have made one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent history.

We hoped you liked reading Organizational Rankings: #6 – Seattle by Dave Cameron!

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Chair
Guest
Chair

I have not even finished reading the article and already I have issues. You say that allot of things need to fall right in order for this team to win 90+ games, but weren’t those the parameters of the middle class teams? Which teams don’t have a “high variance roster” exactly?

I don’t think it is your doing that the Ms are this high, but I do think it is somewhat embarrassing for such a smart website to say so.

LaneC
Guest
LaneC

Perhaps you should read the article in its entirety before commenting?

Chair
Guest
Chair

I did, nothing changed. Thanks for the predictable comment dude.

Haha
Guest
Haha

How stupid do you feel right now?

The Typical Idiot Fan
Guest
The Typical Idiot Fan

You do understand that this has little to do with 2010’s success possibilities, and more to do with 2011, 2012, 2013, and beyond… right?

LaneC
Guest
LaneC

That would imply that people actually get the point of this series.

Kampfer
Guest
Kampfer

it actually makes this ranking look worse…
Mariners for now do not necessarily have the talent to guarantee competence comes 2015. The farm is just decent and the current roster, although young, lack overall talent. No matter how I look at it, I think at the very least most can agree that Phillies is better. Jack Z is overhyped in this case…

The Typical Idiot Fan
Guest
The Typical Idiot Fan

Phillies better now? Yes.
Philies better 3 years from now? If you’re going to make that contention, to use your own words, the Phillies for now do not necessarily have the talent to guarantee competence comes 2015

In short, you can make that argument about any team. What makes the Mariners stand out is the direction they’re heading. They’re young, they’re building, they have a smart front office, supportive fans who supply the M’s with a lot of money, no baggage, and an easy division.

Can you say the same thing about the Phillies? With a straight face?

Chair
Guest
Chair

I guess I am so stupid that even when one of the three articles is called future talent I fail to view this as anything more than a 2010 evaluation. Obviously. I think everyone commenting understands the series.

The Typical Idiot Fan
Guest
The Typical Idiot Fan

If you understand that this is about the present and the future, why the grief? What is holding you back from understanding the Mariners as a team with a bright future?

B
Guest
B

“Phillies better now? Yes.
Philies better 3 years from now? If you’re going to make that contention, to use your own words, the Phillies for now do not necessarily have the talent to guarantee competence comes 2015

In short, you can make that argument about any team. What makes the Mariners stand out is the direction they’re heading. They’re young, they’re building, they have a smart front office, supportive fans who supply the M’s with a lot of money, no baggage, and an easy division.”

Maybe, but I don’t see any real reason to rank them above teams who might be set up as well in the future as the Mariners, but can also win now while getting to that future. You seem to be ignoring that each year should be equal, contending in 2015 is no better than contending in 2010, winning is winning no matter what year it comes in. What I don’t see about the Mariners are strong reasons to think they’ll be so much better in 2015 to rank them above teams that are better right now. Young, building, supportive fans and money? Plenty of organizations can say that. Jack Z might be great, but please, I’d like to see a substantial argument that the Mariners future = great is something more than Jack Z = great so Mariners = great in future…?

Chair
Guest
Chair

I do think they have a bright future, I lived in Seattle the past year, so I know what took place. However It would be assuming too much to say their combined current and future ability to win is 6th in all of baseball. There is no reason to get ahead of yourself and jump from the bottom tear of baseball to the top. Put them from 9 to 13 this year and if all goes well they could move up into the 4-7 range by 2012. They have a pretty average young core and a grade A front office, they need more to justify an elite ranking.

ETAsports
Member
ETAsports

What’s holding me back?

An overrated young core and a mediocre farm system.

q
Guest
q

“However It would be assuming too much to say their combined current and future ability to win is 6th in all of baseball.”

Dave said as much. Going by current and future talent alone, the Mariners are mediocre. The only reason why they’re ranked at #6 is because they have a very smart front office and lots of money. How many other teams have that?

B
Guest
B

“The only reason why they’re ranked at #6 is because they have a very smart front office and lots of money. How many other teams have that?”

It’s not like we’re talking about the Yankees here. They were under the $100M mark last season according to Cots, and #10 in baseball. Sure, that’s decent money, but it’s not anything special. The M’s front office seems good, but what can a good FO do without great talent now? It takes years to fill an entire organization with talent. Current and future talent matter. Winning in the present and in the future matter – that’s what makes an organization successful. These rankings seem to ignore that, and are calling the M’s one of the best organizations in all of baseball simply because their management *appears* to be very good.

bsizzle
Member
bsizzle

That anyone can sit here and credibly predict how well a team is prepared for 2013 and beyond is ridiculous. I mean the Mariners themselves, are a prime example of that. Two years ago the Mariners lost 100+ games and had a bleak future. Today they have a chance to make the playoffs with a smart front office.

Teej
Member
Member
Teej

The M’s front office seems good, but what can a good FO do without great talent now?

Go get it. They traded a broken reliever for Franklin Gutierrez and three solid-but-not-great prospects for Cliff Lee. It might be tough to pull off great trades year in and year out, but I have to say their short track record in acquiring talent on the cheap is pretty impressive.

B
Guest
B

“Go get it. They traded a broken reliever for Franklin Gutierrez and three solid-but-not-great prospects for Cliff Lee. It might be tough to pull off great trades year in and year out, but I have to say their short track record in acquiring talent on the cheap is pretty impressive.”

So was Brian Sabean’s, once upon a time….

q
Guest
q

“They were under the $100M mark last season according to Cots, and #10 in baseball. Sure, that’s decent money, but it’s not anything special.”
A team with a mediocre front office and $100m in payroll does not require much effort to succeed. All of the teams ahead of the Mariners in payroll have decent chances of winning their divisions year in and year out (unless they get hit with the injury stick like the Mets), no matter how smart or dumb their front office is. So, yes, it is actually quite special.

“The M’s front office seems good, but what can a good FO do without great talent now? It takes years to fill an entire organization with talent. Current and future talent matter.”
The M’s have decent talent right now. So, yes, it would take maybe 4-5 years to take a perennial loser into a perennial winner with a very smart front office, like the Rays. But the M’s are in a much better position today, having a more talented roster than the 2005 Rays, yet still young, and having much more money. The only doubt I have is whether or not the M’s front office really is as smart as the Rays’.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown

The Mariners are no better than half the league right now for future success with the way their current team is and their farm is. Are the Mariners going to have the draft of the century in 2010 and all of the a sudden become a top 5 farm system? If not, then they should be no higher than 12th on this list.

Omar
Guest
Omar

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2010-organizational-rankings-kick-off/

“3. Having a chance of winning it all this year is great. Having a great farm system is great. Having a forward thinking management staff is great. But by themselves, none of those things are enough to earn a high grade overall. We’re really trying to highlight the balance between winning now and winning in the future. There will be teams that are high on the list because of how good they may be in 2011 or 2012, while teams that are better in 2010 will be behind them. It’s not just a short term thing, and these aren’t projected order of finish for 2010. It’s our perspective on the total health of where each team is, relative to their peers, going forward.”

That’s the exact language, while I think 2010, 2011, and 2012 are fair and reasonable measures for this exercise, it’s pretty difficult to see 2013 and beyond. Yes, some teams draft better than others and yes some have bigger presence in the IFA markets…however, even the teams that do those things well still make mistakes. Players bust, pitchers get hurt, high ceiling guys never find control, shit happens. Sometimes you’ll see teams take the right approach to things yet still not experience success, take the Cleveland Indians for example. From 2002 to 2009 they were a model organization under Shapiro, they hired SABR guru Keith Woolner before the SABR craze in baseball organizations really took off, had a good far, had a few elite players come up and even locked some of them up long term. Yet they only made the playoffs twice and had three winning seasons, so the “process” isn’t everything either.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown

I like how you give me negatives when the Mariners franchise should be nowhere higher than 12th on this list. I wasn’t wrong.

Le Sigh
Guest
Le Sigh

I guess you skimmed over the part about the winnable division? Because the AL west really is up for grabs and many of the middle class teams don’t have that luxury. The point is that if a few things go right the division in theirs, and the team’s weaknesses will be masked by a playoff schedule. That’s for 2010.

Beyond 2010, current talent plays less of a role than the way the team’s run, and this is a more subjective area. Clearly the authors of this site feel that the M’s are better run than most other teams, and you’re welcome to disagree with that, but on what grounds?

Kampfer
Guest
Kampfer

Now that you talk about how the winnable division plays a big part in the ranking, it once again makes this ranking look bad. If you put more weight on the future, the Rangers is going to dominate, and Seattle has little chance to compete in the future, at least with the current farm.

ETAsports
Member
ETAsports

Even more reason that the Rockies should be ranked above the Mariners.

Given the Dodgers divorce, the future of the NL West is very much in flux.

In AL West, you have one of the best owners (Moreno), one of the best GMs (Beene), and arguably the team with most future talent (Rangers).

Le Sigh
Guest
Le Sigh

Texas is going to be ranked higher than Seattle, so what’s your point?

Le Sigh
Guest
Le Sigh

ETA-
Beane is hardly cutting edge any more and his payroll is a fraction of Seattle’s. Angels are highly ranked as well, but place lower perhaps because their farm is sapped and Reagins hasn’t distinguished himself in any way. Texas, again, will be ranked higher than Seattle so good point but how is that inconsistent with the list?

ETAsports
Member
ETAsports

My point was that the next couple years of the NL West seems far more up for grabs than the AL West. So the Rockies vs. Mariners is my issue.

vivaelpujols
Guest

Hey look, it’s Nick Stavinoha!

ibleedorange
Guest
ibleedorange

You’re a CHAIR, chair! A chair, commenting on the internet. ? Get outta here, ya chair!