thoughts on the Mariners, MLB draft, and more homelinksdraftabout me

Raul Ibanez, Aged Wonder

Who expected Raul Ibanez to be leading the Mariners in home runs on June 24? Anyone? If I had told you that Ibanez would be leading the team in dingers at this point, would you expect Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge to still have their jobs? Wouldn't that be a sign of disaster with the likes of veteran addition Mike Morse, and youngsters like Jesus Montero?

To a degree, it is true that the offense has experienced a mild implosion (at least mild by recent Mariners history). Zduriencik and Wedge are on hot seats too, though people disagree how hot they are. There are problems with this season that have let Ibanez rise to the top of the home run leadersboard.

However, just citing the shortcomings of others sells Ibanez short. He is in the middle of an unexpected season that could be borderline historic.

Mariners Losses Harder Than Wins (Graphic)

Last night was close to perfect, then came crumbling apart.

I watched game 7 of the NBA finals, rooting for the Spurs. The game was tense and close throughout, though Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, couldn't get a tying layup or tip-in to go, so the King James version of the ending (a 17-foot jumper) won out.

The basketball game disappointed me, but Kyle Seager kept cutting through my twitter feed. It seemed the Mariners were thrashing the Angels early.

I changed the channel just in time to watch Peter Bourjos take Felix Hernandez deep. It turned out to be the first of seven consecutive hits for the Angels.

I thought I was going to watch the Spurs win a hotly contested game seven, then enjoy a rare Mariners rout - of the Angels no less, the team I hate more than any other! Instead, I got a Heat victory, and the worst inning of King Felix's career.

So last night went from nearly perfect to utter disaster.

I knew I had to write something about last night's Mariners game, besides how soul-crushing it was. Part of me thought that I had a skewed view of the game, given that I only saw the Mariners score 1 run, and the Angels score 8. It was one of those weird games with a big swing in the middle, and I only saw the latter half of it. So, it felt like a rout for the Angels as I watched it, even though most of the innings I caught featured a close score.

That got me thinking about the nature of painful losses, and thrilling victories. They are the ones that live on the edge between glory and disaster, the games that could easily go either way. Sabermetrics has a nice way of gauging these situations, through a stat called Win Percentage Added (WPA). It is quite simply a way of calculating the odds of a team winning a game, given the current game situation. Each event changes the odds, so WPA is a calculation of how much the odds changed for or against a team winning.

I had a simple idea this morning: why not take the absolute value of each WPA in a game's play log, then add them all together? In theory, games with big momentum swings would have higher sums, because one team would go from heavily favored to the other. That swing would take lots of changes in WPA, though if I didn't take the absolute value, I wouldn't see the big fluctuation. Most of the WPAs would cancel each other as the pendulum swung back and forth.

I've decided to call the sum "net WPA." Below is a chart summarizing the net WPAs for every Mariners game in June. The 'W's and 'L's show Mariners wins and losses:

Last night's net WPA was 3.99, which means it is the game fourth from the left. The crazy high net WPA came in the 16 inning game, where Seager hit a grand slam to tie the game in extras, only to have the Mariners ultimately lose. It makes sense that that game was so brutal by net WPA standards.

The M's losses this month, according to WPA, are more painful than their victories are satisfying. An average loss this month has a net WPA of 3.16, and an average victory has a net WPA of 2.35. I decided to see if the median net WPAs told a different story, given that the crazy 16-inning game might have skewed the results. Medians told the same story though. The median net WPAs for wins and losses were 2.58 and 1.94, respectively*. The extra inning game had skewed the results some, but not enough to change the story.

*The fact that both medians were lower than the means suggests that WPAs are skewed in general. A logarithmic scale might be more appropriate, though this is also a very small sample size.

Higher WPAs tend to correlate to more memorable moments in a game, because they are attached to moments that greatly alter a game's outcome. So, it follows that the higher net WPAs in Mariners losses makes their losses more memorable. Tack on the fact that the Mariners lose more often than they win, and it's easy to see how losses are the dominant story in June.

Boring wins coupled with painful losses. Is it much of a wonder that fans aren't flocking to Safeco Field these days?

Stay the Course

The blog is going to come back to life in the near future. It helps that the Mariners are a bit more interesting, though sadly not much more relevant, as they call up prospects. It also helps that I get some breathing room in my own life, after a bewildering blaze towards long-term employment (which was successful!)

So as I get back to obsessing over the Mariners, I might as well start at the top. Jack Zduriencik has to stay.

2013 Mariners Draft Recap

The 2013 MLB Draft is in the books. It is a marathon, and thanks to the sheer volume of picks the draft gets tedious with brief moments of sunshine. There are things that happen in the MLB draft that are unlikely to happen in any other draft.

This year's crazy story goes to the Diamondbacks and Corey Hahn. Arizona took Hahn in the 34th round, even though he was paralyzed two years ago on a slide into second base. 34 was his jersey number, so the move was symbolic. They apparently have plans to involve Hahn in their front office too, so the move is a bit more beyond symbolism. Regardless, a cool story that just about no other draft besides baseball's would produce.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my alma mater had a player drafted! PLU pitcher Max Beatty was taken by the Padres, which is cool enough, but even cooler since he is already a cancer survivor. Again, name another sport that gives a Division III cancer survivor a chance in the pros.

The draft also had its share of famous names (at least in baseball circles) pop up. Verlander, Yastrzemski, Clemens all heard their names called. However, my favorite connection this year is The Citadel's Joe Jackson, picked in the fourth round by the Rangers. Jackson is a descendant of Shoeless Joe Jackson, and actually a pretty solid catcher. We will find out in the years to come if the current Jackson makes the majors, but he has a chance, and it would be cool to see a living connection to one of the more compelling characters in MLB history make the big leagues.

Enough about some league-wide happenings. Here is my recap of all the M's picks, 1 through 40:

2013 Draft - Day 3 Preview

The pomp and circumstance from the draft is definitely over by now, and most of the MLB prospects have been found. There are occasional diamonds in the rough, but most of the third day is about grabbing minor league depth.

This is my once-a-year soapbox rant for productive college seniors to get drafted. Most of them aren't MLB material, but who cares? They contributed to the game at a high level, and they deserve at least a victory lap as a professional for one summer in some league. I wish more teams thought this way. Plus, at this point in the draft, it is rare to find MLB talent, so why not draft great production in bulk and see what happens?

Here is the reloaded board going into the last day of the draft. As usual, the new names are productive college seniors. Take some time to look them up and see their accomplishments. At the very least, I salute these young men for the love of the game.

2013 Draft - Day 2 Preview

There weren't a ton of surprises in the first day of the draft, aside from the Royals saving slot money with Hunter Dozier, and the Giants going off of everybody's board the entire time. The Mariners made a pair of nice picks in DJ Peterson and Austin Wilson that provided good value and the chance for some bats in needed positions.

Thanks to a late run of players I was set to preview, the reloaded list is shorter than I anticipated. Time is running thin before I need to go to bed though, so this list will have to suffice. There is plenty of talent yet to be picked.

2013 MLB Draft - Top 33

The MLB draft is almost here, with the first round on Thursday, and the final rounds finishing on Saturday. Every draft is an exercise in endurance, and no matter how thin the talent pool seems there are talented contributors to be found. However, some drafts it is easier to find contributors.

This is one of the tougher drafts.

The primary culprit is a thin college hitting crop. College hitters are the safest bets to develop. There are some college guys with good sticks, and they rank in the top 10 (as they should), but the next tier of college hitters is virtually non-existent. The trail off is fast and noticeable.

So who do you draft without many safe bets? Well, you either reach for guys without much upside, or you roll the dice in hopes of reaping a bigger reward.

I chose to go for bigger rewards on my list this year. As a result my list features a whopping 19 high school seniors, as well as one JUCO player. This is easily the youngest list I've ever compiled. The days where I only rated college prospects are long gone. The list is still certainly mine though, for better and/or for worse. Even among the prep ranks I have some players lower on my board than most anywhere else, as well as others I am higher on than most. See what you think of my top 33: