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

Imagining Brad Miller as a Center Fielder

The A's grabbed Ben Zobrist over the weekend, but I didn't strike while the iron was hot on that one so I won't write a whole post. Hot Mariners Musings take: the Oakland A's got better (SHOCKING ANALYSIS). In fact, the A's got so much better with that trade that I'm not sure they are any worse than they were last season, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. They traded the farm for Jon Lester and he walked away as a free agent this offseason.

There are also rumors popping up that the Astros are close to acquiring Evan Gattis. Perhaps that will warrant a full post if/when it happens. Houston is coming, sooner or later, and a move like acquiring Gattis would move up the time table. I like Gattis as an M's target, but after Nelson Cruz signed he made less sense.

The Mariners feel like they are falling behind in the AL West arms race at the moment, but it's hard to see a free agent signing or major trade that makes great sense at this point. The M's have a ton of money sunk in King Felix, Robinson Cano, and now Kyle Seager, plus several prospects (read between the lines: very cheap talents) that have recently pushed into the majors. The best outcome for the 2015 Mariners is for some of these prospects to reach their potential and match the value other AL West foes are adding via free agency, and especially as of recently, trades.

Interestingly, or perhaps unfortunately, two of the M's more intriguing young players both play shortstop. Chris Taylor and Brad Miller seem poised for a battle with the loser ticketed for AAA Tacoma. While I, as a Rainiers fan, would welcome either in Tacoma, there is little doubt in my head an inferior position player would stay over either Miller or Taylor unless the Mariners get creative.

Brad Miller (wikimedia commons, uploaded by UCinternational,
originally posted on Flickr by Keith Allison)
So, I have a proposal. Brad Miller should try his hand at center field.

Let me start by saying that Miller gets mixed reviews for his defense at shortstop, but I personally like his defense. Few doubt his range or arm strength, but some think he would make fewer errors at this point in his career if he was a viable MLB shortstop. These same concerns do not dog Chris Taylor - both statistically and in more traditional scouting reports. Taylor is rather clearly the superior defender between the two, so I opt to keep him at shortstop.

The Mariners already have Austin Jackson in center field, but that only makes me more comfortable with a Brad Miller transition. Jackson is only under contract through 2015, and after his lackluster performance to finish last season, there is no reason to expect him to be a long-term solution. While I like Jackson's chances to rebound, and hope he does, the Mariners would be wise to create contingency plans. Right now, there best (and only) option is James Jones, who so far looks like a center fielder but doesn't produce like much more than a fourth outfielder at best.

Miller is a better hitter than Jones, and probably even a better hitter than Austin Jackson. Also, his arm and range at shortstop could very well transfer nicely in the center field as he learns to run clean, precise routes. Route-running is still an underrated skill (at least in my opinion), but I would be willing to bet on Brad Miller's athleticism hiding some of his mistakes as he learns.

Some thought a corner outfield spot would make sense for Brad Miller because of where the Mariners had holes until they acquired Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith. I never liked that idea because it killed Brad Miller's value. So much of what makes him intriguing has to do with the position he plays. Simply put, there are more good hitters at first base than at shortstop, and tools like WAR account for this specific. Fangraphs publishes their positional adjustments, and using those as a rule of thumb illuminates the problem with moving Brad Miller to a corner outfield spot. Miller, even if he could man a corner outfield spot as well as he mans shortstop, would be worth 15 runs less than if he offered the same level of production at shortstop. That's approximately worth 1.5 wins, and Miller clocked in as a 1.4 fWAR player in 2014. Miller would literally go from a borderline everyday player to replacement level. That's a big difference.

However, Miller would lose only 5 runs in positional adjustment from shortstop to center field (a 0.5 WAR drop). In other words, the difference between Miller switching to center field instead of left or right field is a full win. Now, this is because center field is harder to play, so theoretically Miller's defense would suffer more in center field more than a corner. However, I am skeptical his metrics would be all that different. The reality is that Miller hasn't played any outfield, and the main difference between center and the corners is the range they demand. I'm bullish on Crazy Legs's ability to canvas the spacious grass of Safeco.

Moreover, the Mariners have more corner outfield prospects. Patrick Kivlihen isn't that far away and gets more intriguing every year. Maybe Stefen Romero still becomes something. Alex Jackson, though still very young, could progress through the system fast. We could be talking about him and Austin Wilson appearing in Safeco within a few years. Maybe Gareth Morgan follows a little after both of them. All of these players are corner outfielders.

If the Mariners carry Brad Miller as a centerfielder in training, the roster could look something like this:


  • C: Mike Zunino
  • 1B: Logan Morrison
  • 2B: Robinson Cano
  • SS: Chris Taylor
  • 3B: Kyle Seager
  • LF: Dustin Ackley
  • CF: Austin Jackson
  • RF: Seth Smith/Justin Ruggiano (but mostly Smith as the lefty in the platoon)
  • DH: Nelson Cruz
  • Jesus Sucre (C)
  • Willie Bloomquist (infield)
  • Brad Miller (centerfielder)
  • Seth Smith/Justin Ruggiano (depending on who isn't starting)
Ruggiano can play center fielder if needed, so it would be about impossible for Brad Miller to ever be the only center fielder available in a massively critical situation, barring some really poor managing. He would provide some speed and a jolt of offense on the bench, and could DH also, so it's not like the Mariners would be playing with only 24 players. If/when LoMo gets injured, the Mariners could toy with letting Dustin Ackley play first base, deploying Ruggiano and Smith in the corner outfield slots (bumping Miller a bit closer to center field playing time), and calling up James Jones for added depth (because LoMo would be on the DL in this scenario).

The Mariners roster, both in 2015 and beyond, balances out and works better if one of their shortstops can transition to center field. Both Taylor and Ketel Marte (flying under the radar, but not for much longer) profile as prototypical shortstops who glean much of their value from how the field the most demanding position in baseball. Brad Miller, by contrast, is more of an intriguing blend of athleticism and hitting ability that might be able to stick at a premium defensive position. I'd like to see what he can do shagging flies in the Cactus league and go from there. It could work out well for him and the Mariners. It's a way to help the Mariners keep their 25 best players on the MLB roster while also shoring up the long-term outlook of the roster.

Historic Hall of Fame Class

I'll be in the middle of my actual full-time, paying job when the BBWAA officially announces the 2015 Hall of Fame class. I might sneak online to find out who made it, but no posts until well after the news breaks.

And there will be news. The 2015 vote will be historic, one way or another. There is significant drama going into the announcement too! Allow me to expand and explain.

Lots of voters reveal their ballots before the official announcement, and thanks to the internet, those are collected and gleaned for preliminary voting results. Think of them as an exit poll of sorts in politics - the very same exit polls that allow publications to call elections well before all the votes have been counted.

I kept track of the voting results over the past few weeks and developed a quick, simple computer program to glean a player's Hall of Fame odds. The methodology was rather simple. I simply asked how likely a player was to actually have the support of at least 75% of the actual BBWAA body based on the results in so far. The method assumes a random sample of the population (in this case, the BBWAA), which is actually rather problematic (more on that later) but not problematic enough to stop me from sharing the projected odds I have going into the official announcement:

Hall of Fame Odds (out of 100)
Randy Johnson100100100
Pedro Martinez100100100
John Smoltz100100100
Craig Biggio9399100
Mike Piazza838758
Tim Raines3500
Jeff Bagwell37250

These were the only seven players with a chance at enshrinement after 87 ballots.

Like I already mentioned, this class will be historic. There will be a minimum of four members elected with a legitimate chance at a fifth member. Five members in one year would tie the all-time record, which was set in 1936 - the very first year of the Hall of Fame, and still the greatest class ever. Just to remind you, that first inducted class was Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. This year's class is on the cusp of going into the history books with that legendary group. Let that sink in for a second. It is legitimately epic and awesome.

However, my method assumes the public votes available right now are a random sample of the BBWAA voting body. That's a very dangerous assumption, so dangerous that I would say it is a poor one to make. Voters who make their ballots public don't just post their picks - they must also defend their picks. It's much easier, for instance, to vote for Nomar Garciaparra and Don Mattingly while omitting Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez if you keep your ballot secret. These kinds of ballots are exceptional, but they pop up every year, and they are rarely (if ever) published. They are outliers for sure, but they still count, and unaccounted for in my method. In the cases of Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio, these odd ballots won't make a difference. In the case of Mike Piazza, however, every vote is going to matter, and it's those odd balls that lead me to believe his odds of enshrinement are actually closer to 50%, if not less than 50%.

Tomorrow will be a tremendous day for Major League Baseball. The only question is how great it will be. I have complained like many others about the ballot glut, but the voters are about to go a long ways towards fixing it. They should go farther, but beggars can't be choosers. We will get to celebrate a historically large Hall of Fame class and we should all be Mike Piazza fans tomorrow, especially those of us waiting for Edgar's turn. Clear out that ballot so 'Gar gets the recognition he deserves!

2015 BBA Hall of Fame Vote Recommends 7 for Cooperstown

The BBWAA will reveal the Hall of Fame's class of 2015 on Tuesday, but the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (which I am a member of) revealed their choices today. Here are the results, straight from the BBA press release:

Seven players from the 2014 Baseball Writers of America ballot were recommended for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame by the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance on Friday.

Given the backlog of quality players on the ballot, this year the BBA adopted the plan suggested by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Derrick Goold of a binary ballot. Each player on the ballot was given a yes or no vote by the BBA voters and those receiving over 75% were then recommended.

With this format, pitcher Randy Johnson received 100% of the vote while pitcher Pedro Martinez was close behind at 95%. Others that topped the 75% mark were catcher/second baseman/outfielder Craig Biggio (90%), pitcher John Smoltz (89%), catcher Mike Piazza (85%), first baseman Jeff Bagwell (77%) and outfielder Tim Raines (77%).
Those that just fell short of the mark were designated hitter Edgar Martinez (71%) and pitcher Curt Schilling (68%).

The rest of the voting was as follows:
  • Mike Mussina 67%
  • Barry Bonds 65%
  • Roger Clemens 63%
  • Alan Trammell 53%
  • Jeff Kent 44%
  • Gary Sheffield 38%
  • Larry Walker 37%
  • Fred McGriff 33%
  • Mark McGwire 33%
  • Don Mattingly 31%
  • Lee Smith 31%
  • Sammy Sosa 23%
  • Carlos Delgado 19%
  • Nomar Garciaparra 13%
  • Cliff Floyd 4%
  • Brian Giles 4%
  • Rich Aurilia 3%
  • Darin Erstad 3%
  • Troy Percival 3%
  • Aaron Boone 1%
  • Jason Schmidt 1%
  • Jermaine Dye 0%
  • Tom Gordon 0%
  • Eddie Guardado 0%

Using this binary method, only 13% turned in a ballot with less than 10 names selected. 40% turned in a ballot with 15 or more names selected, with a high of 20.

I took liberal advantage of the binary ballot and ended up with 18 players I voted in favor of. I do not consider myself a proponent of a "big" Hall of Fame, but I suppose I will have to examine my position after my voting this year. I voted in favor of all seven enshrinees, the next nine highest vote-getters, and then both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Sheffield, Kent, McGwire, and Sosa were the last four on my ballot, if you were wondering, and probably the only four you could really talk me out of voting for on this year's ballot.

The BBA hasn't been around incredibly long, but has done its own Hall of Fame voting for several years. Historically I would call BBA votes "progressive." In general, the group votes more players into the Hall of Fame on each ballot than the BBWAA, but not more members in overall. The BBA simply votes in eventual Hall of Famers faster. For instance, Barry Larkin got in on the BBA's first ballot but the BBWAA's second. This year's vote looks like no exception as the BBWAA looks likely to elect five Hall of Famers but leave Bagwell and Raines out for now, though with high vote totals that usually end up with eventual enshrinement.