Projecting the 2016 Seattle Mariners

It may seem a bit odd to start talking about expectations and projections for the coming season in the third week of December, but this Mariners offseason hasn’t been typical. Jerry Dipoto did his shopping early, and all of his recent public comments suggest the team is as good as done, apart from minor league deals, invites to Spring Training and the like. Yes, he said the same thing before dropping the Iwakuma Bomb on us, but those were very particular circumstances that warranted special consideration. (Side note: we should commend Jerry for working so quickly and adapting to the new information in order to make the team better).

So, in light if the fact that this team seems to be good to go, barring any more surprises, I wanted to write up my expectations and projections for the season. When coming up with these projections, I took into consideration the players prior performance, as well as projection systems like Steamer and Fangraphs Depth Chart, but understand that these include a level of subjectivity. I took objective projections and made tweaks based on my own thoughts.

I am generally one who tries to stick with what is objective, but objective doesn’t mean perfect, and we know projections are far from it. They are handy and necessary, but there are times we can look at them and reasonably disagree with what they tell us. I don’t say this to insinuate my estimates are perfect, or even better. They could be better, but they could also be worse. Ultimately I feel they more accurately represent what we should expect, but that’s just my bias.

All that said, here they are:

Position Player Steamer Proj. WAR Position Player Steamer Proj. WAR
C Chris Iannetta 1.7 1.5 SP Felix Hernandez 4.7 4.5
1B Adam Lind 1.5 1.5 SP Hisashi Iwakuma 2.9 2.5
2B Robinson Cano 3.5 3.5 SP Wade Miley 1.9 2.5
3B Kyle Seager 3.7 4.0 SP Taijuan Walker 2.4 2.0
SS Ketel Marte 1.7 2.5 SP Nate Karns 1.3 2.0
LF Nori Aoki 0.9 1.5 SP James Paxton 0.8 1.0
CF Leonys Martin 1.2 2.0 Rotation Total 14.0 14.5
RF Seth Smith 1.2 1.5
DH Nelson Cruz 1.6 2.5 RP Vidal Nuno 0.3 0.5
BENCH Franklin Gutierrez 0.6 1.0 RP Anthony Bass 0.1 0.0
BENCH Steve Clevenger 0.4 0.0 RP Evan Scribner 0.4 0.0
BENCH Jesus Montero 0.3 0.0 RP Justin de Fratus -0.1 0.0
BENCH Shawn O’Malley 0.0 0.0 RP Charlie Furbush 0.4 0.5
Lineup total 18.3 21.5 RP Joaquin Benoit 0.3 0.5
RP Steve Cishek 0.2 0.5
Bullpen total 1.6 2.0
TEAM TOTAL 36.1* 38.0
Replacement wins 47.8 47.8
PROJECTED WINS 83.9 85.8

First, notice that I have six starting pitchers listed, and thus 26 players total. That’s because whoever the 6th starter is — likely James Paxton at this point — will still figure to get plenty of innings, due not only to Iwakuma’s health concerns in particular, but just the nature of pitchers in general. Every team will use at least 8 different starters throughout a season, and at least 6 or 7 of those figure to get significant work.

Before we dig into any of the specifics, let’s talk about the overall. As you can see, my projections lead to essentially an 86 win team. For comparison, Fangraphs’ Depth Charts currently project about 84 wins. Neither figure to guarantee the playoffs, but these kinds of projections are designed to be the median outcome, meaning there is room either way. Beyond that, as solid as WAR numbers are, they can’t account for everything, luck and sequencing in particular, meaning, for example, a team that played like and 85 game winner could luck out and win 90, or get some tough breaks and only win 80. That’s about where the Mariners are, and I am personally fine with that.

My projections differ first of all in that I prefer to just round to a half or whole wins. Not only does it just make it easier to project, but there is enough of a margin of error that we can’t be all that confident in tenths of wins anyway (ie a 3.2 WAR player can’t be said to be better than a 3 WAR player just because of those 2/10 of a win). Of course, this also leads to me often rounding up in optimism when rounding down is just as valid.

Beyond that, the asterisk next to the Steamer projected wins is there because it includes all of the players they expect to play next year, rather than just the 26 I have listed.

More specifically, I am significantly higher on Nelson Cruz, Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin — essentially the outfield as a whole, as well as Ketel Marte, while being a touch lower on Hisashi Iwakuma, and electing to just give Montero and Clevenger WARs of zero.

I don’t expect Cruz to repeat last year’s production, but I also don’t see him dropping all the way to a 119 wRC+ from 158. I expect him somewhere in the middle, maybe a 130 wRC+ or so.

Aoki has been a model of consistency for his four-year MLB career. His OBP has never been below .349, or above .356. He has two seasons with 2.3 WAR and two with 1.5 fWAR, including last year which ended early due to some injury issues. So while he will be 34 and a decline a reasonable to expect, he hasn’t shown signs of aging normally, so essentially cutting his value in half (or more) over one year seems extreme. Something like 1.5 would figure to be a bit more realistic.

Martin is a bit of a different story. He was pretty awful last year, posting a 50 wRC+ and spending some time in AAA. He has never been much of a hitter, topping out at an 89 wRC+ in 2014, but his elite defense in CF allowed him to be worth 3.5 wins that year. He will need to at least bounce back some offensively to have much value.

Interestingly, differences between myself and Steamer isn’t really about offense. Their 79 wRC+ projection seems more than fair, but they, for some reason, only have him with a +4.6 DEF value after being at 9.5 in a partial 2015 season, and 13.3 in his full 2014 campaign. I might be hoping for a bit more offense, but even with their 79 wRC+ projection, his normal defense would bring him closer to 2 wins than 1.2.

It is interesting that I am higher on Marte, because I don’t really feel like I am that high on him. I don’t think he will repeat last year’s production in any facet. His 9.7% walk rate came out of nowhere, and his .119 ISO is the highest he has posted in his career apart from a 19 game sample in Triple-A in 2014. His bigger sample there in 2015 resulted in a .096 ISO. Marte could conceivably add power as he gets older (he is only 22) but I would expect it to come down in the immediate future.

I’d anticipate something like a .265/.315/.360 line next year, which isn’t bad for a 22 year old shortstop with average or better defense and plus speed. That kind of profile leads to a 2 to 2.5 win player, maybe even more if the defense ends up being better than average. It’s also important to note that my projection is based on Marte having a full season (or close to it) whereas Steamer has him at 122 games and 558 PA. If we prorate that out a bit more, their projection ends up at an even 2, a bit closer to mine. Similarly, if you take mine down to 122 games and 558 PA, it ends up closer to 2 than 2.5.

The rotation got a lot better with the re-addition of Kuma, allowing him to slot into the #2 role with everyone else sliding down a spot. That means James Paxton is likely your 6th option to start the year, assuming every makes it through camp healthy. That could mean he becomes a long man in the pen, or hangs out in Tacoma until he is inevitably needed.

It also creates a nice balance of consistency and and upside. Felix Hernandez is Felix Hernandez, assuming last year was an aberration, and Wade Miley is good for 200 average innings. This allows you to rely less on guys like Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and James Paxton, hoping they take a major step forward rather than needing it for the team to succeed. Iwakuma could go either way; you know if he is healthy you have a legitimate #2/3 starter, but you can’t be sure he will stay healthy. If things go well, this is one of the best rotations in the league.

The bullpen seems to be a source of concern, and I get it. They moved Carson Smith, and they were already thin before doing so. But Benoit and Cishek were added as back end pieces, along with a couple of nice bounce back guys in Evan Scribner and Justin De Fratus and a potential long man in Anthony Bass while returning Charlie Furbush, Vidal Nuno and Tony Zych.

All of that, in addition to AAA depth in the form of non-roster invitees, waiver claims, etc., makes the bullpen seem reasonably solid, at least as far as bullpens go. They are volatile, and you never really know what you are going to get. Having good depth and 7-8 guys who don’t project to be trainwrecks seems to be a decent way to build a pen. It helps mitigate the inherent risk of bullpens.

Look, I’m excited. I like the way the floor has been raised without really taking away the upside. The team figures to get on base more, probably as much or more than the league, the outfield defense, while maybe not as tremendous as we might have expected based on Dipoto’s early comments, is much improved, and as I mentioned the pitching rotation is both talented and deep.

They may not be a playoff favorite on Opening Day, but they aren’t far out at all, and if a few things go right they can be a very good team. And the fact is, every team needs things to go right if they want to make the playoffs. This team has as good a chance as most to make their way in to October.

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The Kuma Conundrum

How’s that for a title? I await your call, Fox Sports. You will have to be willing to work around my 100 level community college classes, but I am open to discussions nonetheless.

On to the matter at hand. The pitching market is beginning to take shape this offseason following the signings of  J.A. Happ with the Blue Jays, Jordan Zimmerman with the Tigers, David Price with the Red Sox and Zack Greinke with the Diamomdbacks.

Happ was a prototypical back-end lefty for the first six or so years of his career, with fWAR values ranging from 0.6 to 1.9. But last year, after being shipped to Seattle before the season, he had a bit of a 32-year-old renaissance. A lot of that came after he was shipped to Pittsburgh at the deadline, where they have some kind of pitcher voodoo-magic, but even before then he had a decent little 4.12 FIP — not to mention that through his first 11 starts with the Mariners he had a 3.31 ERA and 3.52 FIP. In his ten starts with the Pirates, he posted a 2.04 ERA and 2.17 FIP.

Thanks mostly to those final starts, Toronto, the team that traded him just a few months before, agreed to pay him $36 million over three years. This is a guy with just one season of over 2 fWAR in his seven year career. But that’s how the market is, and there is actually a decent chance he ends up earning that money. At about $8M per win on the open market, he really only needs to be worth 1.5 WAR a year, or 4.5 WAR total. Even old-form Happ can attain that.

Price and Greinke are both on an entirely different level than Iwakuma, posting fWARs of 16.9 and 13.6 respectively over the last three calendar years; in comparison, Iwakuma comes in at 8.6. If you prefer runs allowed based WAR, the three come in at 14.8 (Price), 19.1 (Greinke) and 12.3 (Iwakuma). All of that is to say that their contracts are obviously many many times greater than Iwakuma will get.

Jordan Zimmermann is more in line with Iwakuma in terms of performance. Their pitcher slash lines (ERA/FIP/xFIP) over the last three seasons are extremely similar:
Zimmermann: 3.19/3.27/3.47
Iwakuma: 3.17/3.45/3.13
But that doesn’t mean Iwakuma will get a contract comparable to Zimmerman. Zimmermann is 5 years younger, has thrown at least 195 innings every season since 2012, and is just a year removed from a 2.66 ERA, 5.3 fWAR season. Iwakuma is still far less valuable.

But, these crazy contracts figure to drive up everyone else’s price with them. Many of us entered the offseason thinking, or at least hoping, that the Mariners would be able to coax Kuma into a two-year deal with a third year option worth maybe $25-30M. Soon, it became pretty clear that it would take at least three years, but even then maybe he comes at a manageable $40M. Now, the necessary dollar amount is anyone’s guess, and most seem to feel it will be closer to $50M over three years, maybe with a fourth year option (or a full fourth year if things get really nuts).

Now, the Mariners can afford this. Their payroll after arbitration, and including the potential incentives for Franklin Gutierrez, Chris Iannetta and Nori Aoki, looks to be somewhere around $115M. Let’s say Kuma ends up getting $48M over three years, $16M per season (note that that may be low). That would take the total payroll to around $130M. Ryan Divish guessed that payroll would be somewhere in the $130-135M range, which would be a touch higher than it was last year. The team still doesn’t have a first baseman. If $135M, or even $140M, is really their cap, we may have a problem.

So, what route should they take? Iwakuma is a solid #2/3 type starter when healthy. His talent overall more than warrants a 3/50 type contract. But he has struggled to stay on the field, and has managed over 30 starts/200 innings just once in his career, back in 2013 (33 starts, 219.2 innings). In 2014, he threw 179 innings, and last year he threw just 129.2.

If you expect him to be closer to 2014 (or ideally 2013) in terms of durability, then the deal becomes pretty intuitive. You have yourself a 2.5-3 WAR starting pitcher — depending on how he ages — for the next three years. If we do some quick performance aging and figure 3 WAR in 2016, 2.5 in 2017 and 2.0 in 2018, we get 7.5 WAR over the life of the deal, which figuring $8M per-win on the open market produces a $60M value.

But whether we can expect that level of health is unknown, and that’s where the risk comes in. You almost have to expect some kind of injury is going to set in at some point over the three years, given his history and age. So maybe you knock a win off, and project him for 6.5 WAR over three years, bringing his valuation down to $52 million. Still above the $48-50M contract projection I used above, but you lose any wiggle room. If something goes wrong beyond a couple minor injuries, a lot of money can go down the toilet real quick.

A lot of Kuma’s appeal comes from familiarity, along with the fact that the Mariners would not have to surrender a draft pick to sign him. But is that enough to risk a bad contract when there are other options out there? A guy like Scott Kazmir could be expected to provide similar value — maybe 2.5 WAR a year or so — as Kuma, and at a similar cost, but he is two and a half years younger. And, because he was traded midseason, he would also not cost a draft pick. The M’s would actually be able to collect a draft pick by allowing Iwakuma to sign elsewhere.

Jerry Dipoto finds himself in a tough situation. Part of me is wondering if these low-money deals for guys like Nori Aoki and Chris Iannetta are the FOs way of bracing themselves for a bidding war for Iwakuma (or another starter) because they know they can’t enter the year without addressing the upper-middle of the rotation. Regardless, the pitching portion of the Mariners offseason is a hell of a lot more complicated that we might have expected.

What the Mariners need to do to contend

The Seattle Mariners, under new GM Jerry Dipoto, have been perhaps the most active team of the young offseason. They have completed three trades so far this month, and November isn’t even over yet. We haven’t reached the Winter Meetings, when free agent and trade activity is usually at its highest. I anticipate the offseason will continue to be extremely active and exciting.

Since I am sure you already know the details of the three trades (and signing of OF Franklin Gutierrez — woo!). They aren’t the most exciting swaps ever, and losing Brad Miller stings emotionally, and potentially on the field as well, but they needed pitching depth and Nate Karns fills that role (with some upside left), and Boog Powell is semi-interesting as a potentially underrated prospect who could profile similarly to the Mariners new CF Leonys Martin.

Martin fits the bill as a defensive-minded center fielder, and they didn’t give up much to get him, but I would have preferred a bit more offensive potential out of their new center fielder. I don’t expect Martin to replicate the lowly 50 wRC+ of 2015, but even at his best he has only been up at an 89 wRC+, though the speed and defense made him a 3.5 fWAR player anyway. I’m expecting a mild bounce back into the 75-85 wRC+ range, along with a 2 to 2.5 WAR. That’s certainly enough considering they moved a pretty average reliever and a AAA outfielder who can do absolutely nothing besides run in James Jones — along with a PTBNL while also managing to bring back a potentially useful reliever/swing starter in Anthony Bass — but I would have hoped for a slightly higher ceiling, particularly on offense.

In between these moves we had the acquisition of veteran/old reliever Joaquin Benoit, who if nothing else has a fun name. Benoit is at an age (39) where you might expect him to fall apart, if he hasn’t already, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. He is throwing as hard as he ever has, and managed a 2.34 ERA and 3.75 FIP last season — and that was a down year. In general, I don’t love paying relievers the $7.5M that Benoit is going to make this year, but the bullpen needed some reliability, and it’s only a one year deal. Not to mention the players going back to San Diego are basically nobodies at this point.

So while these moves may be somewhat underwhelming on the trade-excitement-spectrum, they don’t really need to be much more than that. This is a team that, for the most part, already has its core — Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz. You are free to decide whether said core is ideal (I personally would like it a little younger, and a little cheaper) but those are clearly the cornerstones of the franchise right now. What needs to be done now, something Jack Zduriencik often failed to do, is to complement them with capable players.

Capable can mean many things; there is a range here. You needn’t limit yourself to a certain skill set or WAR value or anything. You just need to ensure you are running out a team that has as few holes as possible. No James Jones/Stefen Romero platoons, no black hole behind the plate. Raise the floor, bring in as many average or better players as possible.

Guys like Karns, Martin, and to a lesser extent Benoit, are exactly what I am referring to. None are elite players, which are always nice to have, but that also means they are affordable. Karns came in what seems to be a fair swap, and looks to slot in as a nice 2 WAR #4 starter. Martin could be an absolute steal if he returns to 2013-14 form, but should still be a league average-ish guy regardless.

Now, the same needs to be done at catcher, right field, and again on the pitching staff. Mike Zunino simply cannot be counted on at this point. He has to be viewed as a project at this point, and if the new player development and coaching staffs can figure him out, at least enough to where he isn’t undoing all of his defensive value every time he steps up to the plate, then it is gravy. Until then, a stopgap needs to be brought in. Chris Iannetta seems to be the most popular, and most obvious, choice so far. Dipoto knows him from Anaheim, he is coming off an uncharacteristic year following multiple seasons of 2-3 WAR play, and he combines solid defense and framing with the ability to take a walk like it’s nobodies business.

Right field is a little less obvious. It makes sense to find an everyday guy, considering Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez are currently expected to platoon in left field, and using four roster spots on corner outfielders is less than ideal. Nori Aoki is a free agent that would seem to fit, and possibly on the cheap. He has reverse splits for his career, coming in above average against both left and right handed pitchers, has the on-base skill set Dipoto seems to like (and that the Mariners need) with a .353 OBP last year, and is a slightly above average defender in a corner, at least according to the metrics.

Gerardo Parra is a similar player in terms of likely free agent price, but he needs a platoon as well, and his defensive metrics cratered last season after being average in 2014, and tremendous in 2013. He is probably a league average type hitter, but if he is going to play below average defense in a corner while being unable to handle left-handed pitchers, he isn’t all that useful.

It wouldn’t appear that Dipoto is keen on giving up the team’s first round pick by signing a free agent with a qualifying offer attached, so free agent options are limited. The most likely outcome is that Jerry pulls off another trade out of nowhere for a right fielder no one knew was even available. If that happens, the money that I would have projected for Aoki or Parra could instead be used on a guy like Rajai Davis to help out in center field, possibly in a full platoon role with Martin who also has his fair share of problems against southpaws.

I don’t want to pretend I know what is going to happen. I don’t. For all I know, Jason Heyward could be a Mariner in 2015 and beyond. But it seems clear that the M’s have a plan, and it seems to involve bringing in these average guys to create a nice layer around the core, build depth, and eliminate the black holes that have far to often popped up on recent Mariner teams.

Significant challenges may await new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto

When Jerry Dipoto was hired to take over the General Manager role for the Mariners, one of the things he stressed, and has continued to stress in various interviews, is that he isn’t a huge fan of using free agency to build a team, at least when it comes to the core of the roster. He stated in an interview with the Seattle Times that he believes, “free agents augment the roster you have,” and that it should be used “as a pure accent move rather than a foundational builder.” This would mean, then, that the Mariners probably aren’t going to sign Jason Heyward, or Yoenis Cespedes, or David Price. Not only does it seem like Dipoto feels that the core of the roster at present is strong enough, but even if it weren’t, he likely wouldn’t fix it by throwing money at it either.

Part of me feels that this is a welcome philosophy in a time where it feels like everyone and their brother is getting multi-year deals worth $50 to $100 to $200 million dollars in total, and it is almost inevitable that the back end of those deals will turn sour and have a chance to handcuff the organization’s financial flexibility in the future. Many of us worried the Nelson Cruz would do just that, maybe within a year or two, and almost everyone has come to terms with the fact that the last 3-5 years years or so of Robinson Cano’s deal are going to be ugly, but ultimately we seem to move past it and put it behind the chance to win baseball games on our priority list, though it is still there, lingering, festering, until the year when Cano has to move to DH and can barely move while being paid $25 million to do so.

In general, I like the creativity, and desire to acquire younger, more cost effective talent that the team can develop and control for multiple years without breaking the bank. To me, that should be the goal whenever possible. The problem becomes, though, that it isn’t always possible, or at least practical or easy. I worry that’s the case for the 2016 Mariners.

Dipoto has the challenge of rebuilding a mediocre farm system while also adding some not-insignificant pieces to the big league club with the intention of competing right away. The M’s need a catcher, two (or more?) outfielders, at least one starting pitcher (in addition to Hisashi Iwakuma), ideally for the top/middle of the rotation, and multiple relievers to try and fix the mess of a bullpen they rolled with last season.

Mr. Dipoto, it would seem, wants to fill most of these holes through trade rather than free agency. But recall that part about the organization being fairly thin on minor league talent at this time, and add on the fact that major league club doesn’t have all that much disposable talent either, lest they run the risk of opening up yet another hole they would need to then turn around and fill. The thing about trades is that both sides want to receive talent, and in order to acquire a catcher, outfielders and pitchers worthy of playing significant roles on a contending ball club, the talent that is shipped out has to be relatively good. The Mariners don’t have a lot of that laying around.

Now, maybe Dipoto plans to find underrated talent that he can get without moving on from the few top prospects the Mariners do have, like D.J. Peterson, Alex Jackson and Edwin Diaz, because moving them in exchange for big league talent simply makes the farm system worse, and we know that isn’t the goal.

Or maybe he thinks he can swing Logan Morrison or Mark Trumbo in a package for an outfielder, or catcher or pitcher, with the other one staying at first base. Maybe he sees James Paxton as someone he can flip due to the durability concerns. Maybe he has loads of confidence in Ketel Marte and will ship Brad Miller out. I would be very much against that last one as I personally don’t have all that much confidence in Marte, at least not enough to put him on an island with the only alternative being Chris Taylor, who probably kind of sucks.

I don’t know what Dipoto’s plan is, and I won’t pretend to, nor will I act like I can do a better job. This isn’t intended as a criticism, because I really do like the underlying philosophy of draft, develop and trade before you sign free agents. I just don’t know how practical it really is right now. Rebuilding the farm system, fixing the major league roster, and trying to win right now are three pretty significant tasks, especially when they are supposed to happen all at the same time. They can work against each other in some ways, as, for example, it’s easier to rebuild a farm system when you aren’t worried about winning and can move all of your major league talent for prospects, just as it’s easier to build a contender if you aren’t worried about the farm system and can trade prospects for big league help.

Now, he did say he feels free agency can augment the roster, so all of this hinges on how he defines that. Maybe Scott Kazmir, Colby Rasmus and Mark Lowe (all free agents) are the kinds of players he thinks augment a roster, so he then only has to worry about trading for one outfielder, a catcher, and a couple relievers. I just think, with the current situation, free agency will have to come into play to somewhat meaningful degree for Dipoto to meet all of his goals. I trust that he can do it, but I don’t expect it to come easy. At this point, I am eager to see how he goes about it, and look forward to a level of creativity we didn’t see all that much under the previous regime.

Initial thoughts on Jerry Dipoto, Lloyd McClendon, et al

Credit to Eric Enfermero https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Lloyd_McClendon_Mariners_at_MMP_July_2014.jpg

As I am sure you are already aware if you managed to find a brand new, obscure Seattle Mariners-based blog, seven-year General Manager Jack Zduriencik was fired towards the end of the season, something many of us were looking forward to for some time. Not too long afterward, ownership brought in former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (California, United States, North America, Planet Earth…) GM Jerry Dipoto to replace him, a move that most seem to be on board with, if not fairly excited about.

When Kevin Mather came out and said he preferred someone with experience for the role, a lot of us began to brace ourselves for a failed retread that wouldn’t be too much different than Jack, but at the same time, everything else Mather said sounded about right. He mentioned wanting someone who “understands all parts and is smart enough to delegate smart people to help him,” and later seemed open to interviewing Assistant GMs as well, meaning he wasn’t too dead set on recycling someone.

All that said, the guy he went with, the aforementioned Jerry Dipoto, does indeed have GM experience, but it isn’t really that simple with him. His run with the Angels should really have an asterisk next to it with all the rumors of ownership/managerial meddling and an utter lack of camaraderie or congruity between Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, and because of that it’s tough to objectively evaluate his tenure. We can’t truly know what exactly he was responsible for versus what Arte Moreno forced upon him, or what tweaks Scioscia made to his acquisitions (like the case of relievers like Ernesto Frieri being told to throw more sliders, even though they weren’t effective pitches for them).

We can be pretty certain that the contracts handed to both Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton (and maybe CJ Wilson) were at least heavily suggested by Moreno, if not entirely his idea, so the two or three biggest acquisitions in Dipoto’s reign might not have even been his. I’m not interested in running down all of the moves he made, in part because of the meddling issues, and also because it would take forever and other people have already done so. I just wanted to point out that, in a lot of ways, Dipoto is a first time GM. Or, at the least his first time holding full autonomy over baseball operations.

All that said, I am optimistic about what Dipoto will be able to do with this team. He is a forward thinking guy who seems to want to heavily utilize the metrics, in tandem with scouting and traditional means as well as all other information available to him. While I personally favor the analytics more than traditional scouting or gut or grit or any other mystical factor that people talk about, I see a lot of value in having a guy who played the game at the highest level and understands the day to day human factors, but is also fully prepared to check that against the numbers and, ideally, lean more toward the numbers if there is a discrepancy. What the experts within the game see can be very valuable, but that always has to be verified by the hard, factual data.

Of course, his first major moves came with the front office and coaching staff, working fairly quickly to decide who stays and who goes. The most noteworthy of those was of course former manager Lloyd McClendon, who Dipoto decided to let go due to philosophical differences. And whether you liked Lloyd or not (I was personally fairly ambivalent, leaning a bit towards dislike), this has to be seen as a good move, at least at this time.

Ultimately, the manager of a team can only do so much; most of them are probably pretty fungible, not accounting for more than a few wins either way. In turn, one of the more important factors in managerial selection is for the manager to be on the same page as the GM and the rest of the organization. If a manager isn’t going to utilize the lineup in the way the GM intended, acting against the build of the roster, things can go south pretty quickly. A lot of the work the GM did can be undone by mismanagement. Now, the GM can certainly make mistakes when constructing the roster, but mismanagement of what is already a poorly designed roster will simply aggravate the situation further.

Because of that, I am open-minded to whichever candidate Jerry Dipoto deems fit to helm the roster going forward. Again, we can’t know for sure whether it will work out in the end for various reasons, but the most important thing now is that he find someone who is comfortable with a new-aged approach, and will utilize the team the way it was intended. I would imagine it will be someone who has never managed at the major league level, with the top name right now being Tim Bogar. Regardless, I am optimistic about what Dipoto can do to supplement an already strong core and finally get this thing heading in the right direction.