Mariners Analysis

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Alfonso Soriano

The big news of the day is Soriano caving and agreeing to play left field. Of course we should all face such troubles... get paid $10 million a year to play a kids game, and then complain about the position.

But one of the oft-quoted reasons for Soriano's reluctance to play anywhere else is re: his paycheck. The argument says he'll make more as a 2nd baseman, so therefore he will lose money by playing left field.

But is that true?

No. I don't believe it is. Let me try and make my case.

Exhibit A is Randy Winn. If Winn is worth $8 mil/yr playing for the Giants, and hitting 12-15 home runs a yr in the process, why wouldn't Soriano hitting 25-30 HR's a year be worth more?

He's younger, almost certainly has a better arm, and teams love his bat in the lineup. He can also steal a base, and drives in runs.

So it isn't hard to see how a team might throw $10-12 mil a year at Soriano to play in LF.

Exhibit B is defense. While Soriano might have visions of being a HOF caliber 2nd basemen, the fact is his defense is so bad he'll never stay at the position. He will be forced from 2nd not because teams are stuffed with great 2nd basemen, but because he hasn't mastered the position, plain and simple.

Teams like the Yankees who don't value defense as much as others might are willing to let you hit 25 home runs at 2nd when you make chump change. But when your price tag hits 8 figures a year, more is expected. Being the worst defender at your position is simply not acceptable for $10 million. His offense isn't THAT good.

Exhibit C is pay scale for 2nd base. Sure LF's are "easier" to find, so the saying goes, therefore he'll make less because his numbers look smaller in comparison. But this ignores basic supply and demand in baseball.

The truth is the number of players who can hit 25 home runs in a season is very small. The number of available players in the off season is REALLY small. When Soriano hits the market, it's not that fact he's playing second base that is the primary selling point, it's his POWER. So while LF's like Manny make Soriano's numbers look less impressive, he also makes far more than any 2nd basemen every has.... $20 million a year. It's the classic story of the top earners dragging everyone else along. If Manny is worth $20 million a year, then an "average" LF can easily be worth half that. As a second basemen, Soriano was never going to bust the pay scale & get Jeter, A-Rod or Bagwell type of money. He's not terribly marketable, and he's not a "complete" player. To assume he's worth far more as a 2nd basemen is to ignore what 2nd basemen are worth, and ignores Soriano's value as a baseball player.

So I submit Soriano should be glad he's playing LF for the 'Nats. This actually INCREASES his value in the offseason. It gives him the opportunity to succeed at a position, instead of suck at one. There's a reason he was traded from the Yankees to the Rangers to the Nationals. Players who make big money carry higher expectations.

We'll see if the market agrees with me next year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Great game last night

I don't think there is any doubt the WBC was a huge success. You could instantly tell last night this wasn't a spring training game. Players were really into the game, and even hearing the announcers voices made you realize this wasn't the M's playing the Padres. This was the real thing.

It was fun to see the Japanese and Cuban players... the names were great. My parents chose "Tom" when "Yoandy" was still on the table?? What's up with that? (remind me to talk to Mom about this one)

So yeah, Bud Selig was right to try to make this happen. He was right about the Wild Card, and he's right about this one. There's plenty of other things he whiffed on (steroids), but you can't ignore the good things, especially when they are as significant as this.

Of course now that the WBC is over, we have to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, Spring training. A bit of a bore in comparison... but the Borchard thing as least brings some interest.

As far as the M's are concerned, what's left to decide? We all knew the starting rotation since Christmas. The bullpen is largely set. The only real interest seems to be 2nd base, but I'm 90% certain it will be Lopez.

For Bloggers the next two weeks are going to be time to really define our expectations for this team. Is .500 a realistic option? Can this team get out of the cellar of the AL West?

While we ponder these age old questions, congrats to Japan. You have the best team in baseball.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thornton gone

My first thought when I saw the news the M's are getting Joe Borchard for Thornton was wow... what an amazing trade. The M's already have a strong bullpen, and Thornton is incredibly replaceable. The odds he becomes one of the top relievers in baseball is small, but the odds he costs the M's a game this year extremely high.

Just getting rid of Thornton alone is a good move. Actually getting value back makes this that much better of a trade. But there's more to the trade than just Borchard.

The other way this makes the M's better is watching Hargrove find a place to play him. With Borchard out of options, he is almost certain to make the team, especially if he keeps hitting like he has all spring.

That means a change is coming. Either the M's actually have a useful bench, or they don't carry so many relievers. Almost no one thinks carrying a surplus of relievers is good for a baseball team. Guys sit around too long between starts, and it's hard to evaluate players when they don't play regularly.

If Borchard does make the team, this means a Dobbs or Morse gets pushed out, which again makes the team stronger.

To summarize, this move is good because:
1) We get rid of Thornton
2) We get a talented player in Borchard (who might actually be good someday)
3) We push Hargrove to use his bench
4) We put pressure on eliminating the # of relievers

Not a bad way to start the week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

No surprise US isn't steamrolling opponents

There are VERY casual observers who might think any team other than the US winning the WBC would be considered an upset. After all, baseball was invented here and it is generally acknowledged the highest caliber of baseball in the world is played here.

But that is not what wins events like the WBC. Just as we have seen with basketball, throwing together a bunch of super stars and then watching them blow away opponents doesn't happen on the world stage. Players who wouldn't be backups on the worst team in the AL are able to rise to the occasion when national pride is involved.

If we believe quotes seen from players and managers in the WBC, they seem to be taking things pretty seriously. In a tournament some were calling a joke, quite a few tears have been shed this spring. As Tom Hanks says, there's no crying in baseball, but there has been far more tension and pressure then originally forecast by critics.

If we look at international competition in general, the US shouldn't win this tournament. The winner is usually a country where the players know each other better, play more games together, and just generally have more invested in the game. Of course talent does matter, otherwise we could just pencil in Cuba and be done with it.

Look for the US to not win the WBC.

And look for that to be yet another reason why it has been a success.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bad calls a part of sports

Any Seattle fan who watched the Super Bowl knows officiating can play a huge part in sports. And Japanese fans can't be very happy watching a questionable call get overturned on US soil.

Our good friend Randy Winn, who is now "worth" $8 million a year to the Giants, is mostly responsible for this. After all, when US players saw the runner from 3rd beat the throw by about ten steps, they thought he must have left early. But all Seattle followers know better... that's what you expect when Randy is throwing!

Seriously, the replays are clear he did not leave early, and even if he did, those plays are never overturned.

Tough way to win a game, but officiating's been a part of the game since the start.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

WBC critics... are you watching?

PLENTY of baseball fans have been openly critical of the WBC. They say it is just about the money. The timing sucks (although they have no better option). Blah, blah, blah.

The facts are just as obvious Bonds using steroids. The WBC is simply far more interesting than regular spring training games. When Beltre hits two home runs in a game, it's always good. But when it comes in a game where he is representing his country?

Very cool.

Who can not see the fans going crazy when Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic and not understand something is happening here?

Baseball is about tradition. So much so that when something new comes along, it is easy to be critical and dismissive.

If you are still against the WBC, fine. Nothing I say is going to change your mind.

But just watch some of these other teams play and do so with an open mind.

You might just find yourself having fun.

Bonds and steroids

There are of course a few people who are still in denial. People who think OJ really is searching for the killers, people who think the new Star Wars movies were good, and people who think Bush is doing a good job.

Sorry for the last one, but I tried to think of the most obvious, indisputable thing in the world today, and well Bush and his performance tops the list by so much... I really had no choice.

But anyway, the point is we knew Bonds used steroids. Seriously, we already knew all this. The book just documents all the evidence and connects the dots. Bonds will act like he doesn't care, but perhaps a few less people will "cheer" Bonds this year.

Sure, Bonds will threaten a lawsuit once he realizes the impact of the book. And he will insulate himself from reality so much he'll start to sound more and more like Michael Jackson in the coming years.

I really want Bonds to go away as quickly as possible.

I hope the book somehow speeds up the process.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Exciting baseball being played

While the Mariners continue to pitch poorly in what is supposed to be "meaningless" games, there is exciting baseball being played. The Koreans beating the Japanese may not mean much to many US fans, but there was some celebrating going on across the ocean.

I don't really understand how anyone can not be at least a little interested in what is going on in the tournament. Perhaps once the US begins play we might hear a little more about it.

The injury issue is being WAY overplayed right now. This is typical for all those who fear change. We see Gil Meche just strained a muscle that had nothing to do with pitching against the "world" yet we'll hear screaming as soon as someone loses a nail in the WBC.

Playing baseball is just a game. You can get hurt doing it, and often times there is little rhyme or reason to it. Players have known about this tourney for a long time, and no one should be afraid to play because they weren't "ready."

We see players in Winter ball all the time. A two week tournament is not enough reason to freak out if someone is pitching. The managers aren't going to leave a starter out there for 9 innings, so just enjoy the games.

Are you really that interested in the Mariners-Padres playing each other? Is that the more compelling story line?

Getting something like the WBC going takes time. You don't get superstars all that excited for an event when they get paid millions of dollars to play a game the rest of the year. Don't let their lack of enthusiasm dictate yours.

I'm sure there were naysayers when the World Cup started. Let's give this thing a chance.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sad fact veterans often overpaid

When I first saw the news Randy Winn was suddenly "worth" $8 million a year to the Giants, I thought it was a joke. I mean, Winn is a decent ball player, but he's not even close to being a superstar. Getting to near 8 figures a year means you must be really good, right? But Winn will be reaching a time when players start to decline, not improve. Winn's arm isn't going to get any stronger, and he'll never hit 20 home runs a year for you.

In comparison, if the M's get Ibanez for $5 million a year, it will seem like a bargain. As much as we may hate paying that kind of coin, as long as there are people like a certain unnamed GM in San Fran who will dole out ridiculous contracts, then that is what Ibanez is "worth." It's all about what one team will pay. Apparently Bavasi was so worried Ibanez would be scooped up, he felt the need to offer an extension when he didn't have to.

We all realize GM's want guarantees. We don't know if Felix's shoulder will hold up this year. We don't know what Lopez will do in the field. We don't know if Doyle can stay healthy.

But we're pretty sure guys like Winn and Ibanez will stick around, putting up decent numbers and won't be a distraction. For some teams and some GM's, that is as close to a guarantee as they can get, and they'll throw a lot of money around to keep it.

It's nice work if you can get it...