Boy, we sure missed on that one, didn’t we? I mean, who could have seen that coming (besides Casey, USSMariner, Lookout Landing, this guy, that guy to some extent, me…)?
Sure, the Mike Morse—John Jaso trade could have worked out for the Mariners. I could also make money going to the casino and putting 600 Field Bets down at the Craps table. I actually did that with my class at WSU-Vancouver, temporarily turning the classroom into a casino. They lost 12.0 percent on their collective “investment,” though it should be noted that the expected losses were only 2.8 percent. The Morse – Jaso trade was like that. The expectation was negative, and the outcome was more negative. The Mariners made a bet against themselves in the Casino of Baseball. It probably wasn’t going to work out, and people that have some fucking clue about defensive metrics, OBP and the over-valuing of power had a hunch long before it played out.
Last January after the trade, Dave Cameron went so far as to tweet this:
But no, we needed power to compete. Power, power, power. Homeruns win ball games, don’t you know (except when they don’t). Fuck that. The Mariners were second in the AL with 188 homeruns and 13th in the AL with a .306 OBP. That added up to 12th in AL in runs scored. How much did those homeruns matter? Not much; not when nobody’s on base. This is fucking kindergarten math. But we shouldn’t depend on results to “prove” to us that the process was bad. The process was bad because the process was bad.
Sure, teams that hit more homeruns tend to score more. No one will argue that homeruns hurt. Since I can’t truly get off until I’ve unloaded some statistics on you, check this out:
In the forty seasons between 1970 and 2009, teams that hit an additional 26 homeruns scored another 50 runs for themselves, disregarding any other stats. Teams that produced OBPs just 10 points greater also scored an additional 50 runs, disregarding other stats. The Mariners traded homeruns for OBP, among other things, and it wasn’t likely to work out. Of course, there’s a problem with looking at each variable in a vacuum.
Lurking variables—variables that are left out—can really fuck up a study, so we have to be sure to control for both homeruns and OBP at the same time. Here’s what we see. If an average team keeps its homerun totals steady, but improves OBP by 15 points, it will score about 50 additional runs. If that same team instead keeps its OBP steady, it would need to hit 38 more homeruns to create those 50 additional runs. Power and on-baseyness need each other to be valuable, but OBP can survive a little better on its own. The Mariners went ape shit on power, and forgot about getting guys on base first, which is actually the more important ingredient of the two. That is, if you like scoring runs.
We haven’t even talked about positions, defense or injuries yet. We know that Jaso wasn’t likely to get even 300 plate appearances due to Eric Wedge‘s misunderstanding of basic math. We think we knew that Jaso was an average defensive catcher at best. We know there were log jams at both catcher and at first-base/corner outfield. Besides the absurdity of not giving a guy of Jaso’s relative offensive caliber even 300 PAs, MORSE WAS JUST JAMMING A DIFFERENT POSITION, WASN’T LIKELY TO GET MANY MORE PAs, AND WE KNEW HE WAS A SHITTY DEFENSIVE OUTFIELDER.
Ever seen that clip from Family Guy?
John Jaso is like the boat, and Mike Morse is like the mystery box. Maybe it could have been as good as the boat, but why not just go with the boat?
In the end, the additional 1.6-to-2.8 WAR that Jaso provided over Morse this season (B-R vs. FG) wasn’t going to make the Mariners a playoff team. But it’s so god-damn frustrating watching a bad process unfold. I like to believe that Wedge threatened Jack Z, saying that he refused to play Jaso. Then I can just get pissed off at Eric Wedge for a new reason.
In the end—though again, it doesn’t prove anything on its own, really—our catchers combined to produce -0.1 fWAR, Morse was so bad you have to go to Fangraphs’ second page of Mariners to find him (-1.2 fWAR), and John Jaso walked his way to 1.2 fWAR in a reduced role for the Athletics…at a price tag 4.7 fewer millions of American dollars.
Can we please leave baseball’s Craps table now? I mean, Fuck.