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Self-Inflicted Middle Market Woes

About a week and a half ago I wrote about playoff diversity, mostly to dispel the myth that small market teams cannot compete in Major League Baseball. Yes, it pays to have money, but it pays to have money in other prominent sports leagues too that don't face the same kind of parity-related scrutiny which MLB does.

As I gathered evidence to support my claim, an unexpected number popped out: middle market teams in baseball are the least represented in the playoff the past five seasons. Not surprisingly, it's better to have more money, but quite surprisingly it also seems better to have less cash. I promised a follow-up post.

Here it is.

Michael Pineda's Dominance

Michael Pineda
that's a seriously long stride
I haven't written much on Michael Pineda, but it's not because I haven't noticed him. For the most part, there is enough out there on him already. It is time for a few words though.

First of all, I did not think that Pineda should have started the season in the majors, and what a travesty that would have been if I had been running the team. Clearly, Michael was ready for the majors and then some. I stand corrected, but this is one of those instances where it feels really good to be wrong.

Playoff Diversity

While I stick to writing about baseball, the NFL lockout garners much of my non-baseball attention these days. A couple weeks ago, I read this straightforward article about NFL commish Roger Goodell wishing negotiations would resume. That wasn't very surprising news, but I bet we all read newsworthy things every day that aren't all that surprising.

What caught my eye though was a side comment made by Clark Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. Quoting the article linked to above:
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told callers that small-market teams such as the Chiefs could be at a competitive disadvantage with big-market teams if the NFL does not adjust to the times.

For an example, Hunt needs only to watch the small-market Kansas City Royals. Unable to match the richer clubs' salary offers for top players the Royals have developed, Kansas City has been shut out of baseball's postseason since 1985.
Even though the Royals were a small sidenote in the article, it burned me to read the quick, skin-deep analysis. Yes, the Royals are a small market team, and yes, they have struggled mightily. However, I refused to believe it was all about money. It felt to me like the Royals had made too many poor decisions in the past quarter century to compete with any amount of money.

I had to put my theory to the test. How bad is it for small market MLB teams?

Minor Youth Movement Begins

Mike Wilson
Gone are Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley. In their places are Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson.

Obviously, the most interesting part of all of this is that Bradley is gone, and his baseball career might very well be over. I could say something, but plenty has already been said.

Instead, I will take a look at what this means on the field. It is a puzzling pair of moves, though in the end they might not make any sort of difference.

Big League Closer

Brandon League
Brandon League (Getty images)
I didn't see this coming out of spring training.

Well, I did, sort of. We all knew that Brandon League would open up as the M's closer with David Aardsma on the shelf. What none of us knew was that he would convert his first nine save opportunities...and counting. For what it's worth, most of those have "looked" good too, meaning he didn't seem to be on the brink of destruction.

Even with League's good start, Brandon Morrow still has a WAR edge (0.6 to 0.4) in the early going this season. So, the much-questioned trade is still questionable at best. However, League has the edge in WPA (0.86 to 0.35), which he couldn't say last year with his fatty negative total.

Back to the current Mariners team. Maybe League is just hot right now, and he is bound to cool off. However, with Aardsma likely close to returning, there is no reason to mess with success.

MLB Influence Rankings

Click on the picture above to enlarge it. The file size isn't too big, but it's pixel size is quite large (just as a heads up). A full explanation on this infographic can be found here, including my methodology behind the bubble sizes and positions. If you want to compare and contrast this picture to the previous one (on April 10), it is available here.