Tag Archives: Russell Branyan

2012 AL West Team & Winter Wrap-Up

Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.

I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.

Lastly, here are team by team offseason wrap ups, after the jump… Continue reading

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Mariners Make First Moves

The Seattle Times and others are reporting that the Mariners have declined options on Erik Bedard, Russell Branyan, and Jose Lopez.  Bedard was no surprise whatsoever, as he hasn’t pitched in a year and half and the option was for $8 mil.  The other two had a slight chance of getting picked up, but this was still expected.

Branyan and Bedard become free agents, with nothing to prevent them from resigning with the Mariners if everyone’s interested.  Lopez only has 5 years of major league service time, so he remains on the Mariners roster, for now.  They have about a month to decide whether to offer him arbitration, meaning he would get a contract next year, or non-tender him, making him a free agent.  Dave Cameron at USS Mariner has a post that goes into a little more depth on the options.  He says expect a trade, but any of the three are plausible outcomes.

In other related news, a bunch of guys were removed from the 40-man roster.  Ryan Langerhans and Guillermo Quiroz have refused an assignment to the minors, making them free agents.  Ryan Feierabend, Sean White, and Chris Seddon are still deciding whether to accept their assignments.  I can’t imagine anyone will be too interested in whatever happens with any of these guys.  Again, it’s possible they could all come back in some form or other, but it doesn’t really matter.  Brian Sweeney was also taken off waivers by the Diamondbacks.  He won’t be back.

-Matthew

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M’s Hire Branyan’s Big Brother

Eric Wedge, not Bobby Valentine, and not Joey Cora, will be the next manager for your Seattle Mariners. A lot of fan’s first reaction is probably that once again Chuck and Howard don’t want to pay what it takes to bring in a big name, thus we are stuck with a reincarnation of Bob Melvin or Don Wakamatsu. I’ll be honest, my first reaction was how similar this guy looks to Russell Branyan (see pic below). Fans can have whatever reaction they’d like, and no one is wrong. Seattle has seen 7 managers come and go since Lou left, so at this point, Joe Torre could have been hired and some fans would still react negatively. Personally, I think Wedge is an outstanding pick. Here’s why.

The Mariners made no secret about their desire to have an experienced manager this time around. No more rookies! In addition, it seemed safe to assume that a younger guy might be on their wish list, or at least someone who can relate well with young players, because the M’s will no doubt have a plethora of youth in 2011. Furthermore, following the Wak era, I’m sure Jack Z was looking for a manager that would not take crap from anyone (cough Figgy cough). Wedge meets all of these qualifiers, not to mention a nice track record of successfully taking over a rebuilding situation, as he did in Cleveland, eventually getting them to within 1 win of the World Series. At just age 42, Wedge has quite an impressive resume. In 2002, he was hired at age 35 by the Indians, and in 7 seasons he led the tribe to a .495 win%. Not bad for Cleveland.

Yesterday I listened to both Eduardo Perez (ex-player) and Tom Hamilton (Indians announcer), both give ringing endorsements of Wedge. The interesting point that both men made was that Wedge was fired following the ’09 season for the simple reason that Indians management wanted to turn the page, and enthuse the fan base with a managerial switch. It had little to do with Wedge, and in fact, GM Mark Shapiro fought to keep Wedge. Had Cleveland held onto Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Brandon Phillips, Hamilton noted that “we would not be talking about Wedge in Seattle, but rather, Wedge and the Indians in the ALCS.”

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Your 2011 Mariners- First Base

The Mariners have 4 games left in one of the most dismal seasons in history, and no one is sad to see it go.  I haven’t watched more than an a couple innings of a game in weeks.  The outlook for 2011 isn’t much better, to be honest.  Barring an unexpected and significant payroll increase, there’s not much room in the budget for big-ticket additions.  Even if there were, it’s not a great free agent class. 

Still, the Mariners need to, and will, make serious changes to the roster.  Some of this will just be with playing their younger players more, but there will certainly be some moves and fresh faces as well.  In an effort to get ready for the offseason, I’m going to walk through each position and see what the Mariners have, for both 2011 and the future, and what they’ll be losing.  I’m not going to touch on who they might add yet.  That will come later in the offseason, if at all.  Frankly, there are very few people sufficiently smart and well-connected to project those kind of moves more than a few days out.  Consider this series of posts something of a triage: which positions are in the worst shape going into next year, and which might be okay.  It’d be too depressing to start with catcher, so we’ll look at the first basemen after the jump! Continue reading

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The Rebuilding Process, Year 3

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Years 1 and 2 of the rebuilding process the Mariners are in, orchestrated by Jack Zduriencik. With year 2 nearing completion, let’s look ahead to year 3 of rebuild mode.

Following this 2010 season, the Mariners will likely find themselves less ahead of schedule than what had been anticipated going into this season. The 85 wins in 2009 will be followed up with something like 65-70 wins. The Mariners do not have much money coming off the books, and their best player from 2009, Cliff Lee, is wearing a Texas uniform at the moment. In some ways, things may look bleak for the Mariners after this season. However, looking again at the big picture of rebuilding in 3-4 years, I think the positives still outweigh the negatives because of the strengthened farm system, the lack of bad contracts, and a strong nucleus that are all signed (Ichiro, Felix, Smoak, Guti).

Rewind with me again to November 2008. The Mariners were a mess, kind of like the Seahawks are today, and similar to Husky football after the Willingham era concluded. In each case, our team needed to blow things up and rebuild. This happens in sports, and typically, rebuilding takes 3-4 years. Of course the Yankees can do it in 1 year, and the Royals or Pirates need about 10 years, but for a Seattle team in a good market, 3-4 years is about the norm. This season it appeared the M’s might be able to take advantage of a weakened division and some savvy trades, and take the shortcut from rebuilder to contender in just 12 months. But 2010 has not panned out, and while it looks like the M’s are going to have to start over again once this year ends, the reality is the foundation for rebuilding was laid a year ago, and Seattle is finishing year 2 of a 3-4 year rebuilding process.

In his “Wait ‘Til Next Year” series, Matthew recently broke down each position, and forecasted the roster heading into next season. Certainly a common theme in these posts is the uncertainty at multiple positions, but despite the question marks, the M’s will continue building around a solid group that will surely include Felix, Ichiro, Ackley, Gutierrez, Figgins, Saunders, Smoak, Pineda, Vargas and Fister. Others from the current roster will be back next year, and some will not, and additions will need to be made, either via trade, free agency, or growth in the farm system. Given how difficult it is to predict trades, let’s look at the unrestricted free agent crop for 2011, and specifically, free agents that may be realistic targets for the Mariners, give their needs. Yes, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter may hit free agency, but again, this list only includes realistic targets, at positions the M’s may have an interest.
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Jack Z’s Goal

I’m amazed at the variety and ferocity of the opinions expressed about the Russell Branyan trade.  Some people (myself included) are happy about it, some people think it’s the sign that Jack Zduriencik is overmatched in his job and is working on borrowed time. 

I shared my thoughts in an earlier post, so I won’t go into a lot of detail again.  People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but the railing against the trade sounds to me like a lot of frustration from a losing season, and possibly frustration that this move didn’t happen sooner.  I certainly understand that.  I do think that teams and players place a lot more weight in wins in a lost season than fans do, however.  When you start reeling off 90-loss seasons too often, it’s easy to lose respectability as a franchise.  Younger players in those situations often seem to develop into much less than what was expected of them.  I can’t think of a way to study if that’s true, but I think anyone who’s played sports even somewhat competitively will agree that learning to win is a real process, and any chance to to start on that or keep it going is important, at least in my mind.  The Mariners made a nice break in a losing culture last year.  Finding respectability again this year could be important.

All that isn’t really the reason for this post, however.  Continue reading

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Russell Branyan is Back!

If you haven’t heard yet, the Mariners just traded for Russell Branyan.  They gave up two prospects: Ezequiel Carrera, a slap-hitting speedy outfielder, and Juan Diaz, a decent-glove small-stick shortstop.  If either of them develops into more than a bench bat in the bigs, it will be a surprise.

Some of the local Mariners blogs are trying to figure out the point of this trade and are claiming it’s hard to understand.  I understand their perspective, but I think it’s pretty easy to understand.  The Mariners had the worst collection of first basemen I’ve ever seen.  They don’t anymore.  It seems pretty simple.  Sometimes you just have to get better in whatever way you can.

As amateur analysts and wannabe GMs, we tend to oversimplify.  When the Mariners are clearly out of contention, as they are now, we focus on how to get better for the next season.  The real management doesn’t have that luxury.  They have to sell tickets, and Russell Branyan helps do that.  He’s a name that I would bet many fans associate with last year’s season, and on top of that he brings some power, which is sorely needed and a lot more entertaining than what we’ve seen so far.  After missing most of the first month of the season, Branyan has played in just over 50 games and is already at 1.2 WAR, better than any Mariner except for Guti and Ichiro.  He has 10 homers, 3 more than Milton’s team-leading 7. 

There’s the argument that the M’s should be giving playing time to younger players to see what they’re capable of.  But who exactly are these young guys that Branyan is stealing time from?  Carp is bad.  Kotchman is the worst hitting first baseman I’ve ever seen.  They could possibly trade for someone, but if Jack Z. has the opportunity to trade for a younger first baseman/DH with potential, Branyan’s not going to stop him.  He’s a good stop-gap who could possibly factor into the future if needed

My first response on hearing about this trade was, “Great, someone who’s actually fun to watch!”  It doesn’t have to mean something big and important.  It’s just a move to make this team better.  Not good enough to magically chase down the Rangers, but better.  The more you lose, the harder it is to turn things around the next year.  This team has plenty of room for Russell The Muscle and his home runs.

-Matthew

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