Mariners Analysis

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Revealing commentary

It's always fun when your team makes a trade or signs a free agent- it gets everyone talking and helps pass the time until spring training.

It also reveals a little bit about the fans and what they believe to be true about the team. Two things jumped out at me-

Myth #1- Many fans think the Mariners have a good defense.

The fact is the Mariners have one of the worst defenses in all of baseball. They have two very good defenders in Ichiro and Beltre. The rest of the team is either average or downright terrible (Sexson and Ibanez).

There is a group of fans who actually think Sexson is a good defender! They somehow think because he is tall he magically covers up every ball hit or thrown towards him. This is based on either theories (tall people must be better at catching) or bad analysis (when they watch they hallucinate). While there is no magic number we can assign to defense just yet, there is a tremendous amount of work being done in this area and they all agree- Sexson sucks.

Scouts that can accurately judge talent thinks Sexson is a terrible defender. Every known defensive metric thinks Sexson is terrible. Yet there is a group of Mariner fans who actually think he is a plus defender!

Myth #2- Many fans think money doesn't matter for the Mariners

The flawed logic here says so what if we overpaid for Silva. The team rakes in money over Texas and Oakland so forget about the dollars and do whatever it takes to make the team better. If Silva is better than the ghost of Weaver then Bavasi is doing his job.


This line of thinking is so stupid it's hard to even know where to begin, but I'll try.

The Mariners choose to create a budget that begins and ends with each season. This means money does not carry over from season to season. In other words, if Bavasi wanted to slash the team payroll to $50 million next season and save $60 million for the following year he couldn't do it. There is nothing in baseball that prevents it, it's just the Mariners foolish rule that prevents them from being as competitive as they should otherwise be.

To say it another way, most people are familiar with a savings account. You try to sock away money for the future or when you might otherwise might need it. But the team for all practical purposes discards the concept of a savings account. Every dime saved during a year goes to paying off Safeco field and in to the owners pockets.

This puts even more of an emphasis on what limited dollars are available each year. The higher the percentage of money that is tied up in contracts each year the less freedom you have to spend. It's common sense of course. So when Silva is in year 3 of a contract and is being paid $11 million and he is actually pitching like a $3 million pitcher it matters. That extra $8 million being paid to Silva is money that isn't going to your bullpen, scouting dept, free agent outfielder or wherever they want to spend.

I can't say it enough times. When your team operates on a fixed budget (as the Mariners do) money matters. The fact the team has plenty of money and can't figure out the best way to spend it is the real problem. Pretending the money doesn't matter is a convenient excuse when justifying these signings.

I don't mind Silva as a pitcher. I mind Silva as a pitcher when he is overpaid relative to his worth and that overpayment is hurting the team addressing other areas.

Money matters.

It's not that hard to understand, but I notice plenty of Mariner fans don't understand this simple concept.