Talent Evaluation: The Fusion Method

InsidethePark.com's Dave Clark takes a thorough look at which of three players fit best for the good of the team and the resources the M's will use to make that decision. How will Bill Bavasi decide between Randy Winn, Raul Ibanez and Bucky Jacobsen, and why?




Every General Manager has a certain set of tools available to them to make any team decision. In general these tools are traditional scouting, good ‘ol boys networking, financial management and the rise of sabermetrics. Every GM leans towards using one or two as the keys to any decision.

Former M's GM Pat Gillick was a scouting advocate that applied his finances in risk adverse patterns. While in Oakland, everyone knows that Billy Beane is the founder of the sabermetric movement among general managers finding ways to get cash from other teams to make up for limited resources.

We embark on our journey to learn just what kind of general manager Bavasi will be for the Seattle Mariners. One of the avenues we can use to figure out what kind of personnel executive he is, is by viewing certain decisions he has already made.

Considering that Bavasi has clearly stated that he intends to have Randy Winn in left field and Raul Ibanez as the designated hitter, we know what the decision is- but how did he reach that point? We will view the decision by staring eagerly through the lens of each of a genereal manager's tools.


Sabermetrics

Based purely off of last season's performance without regard for any health or call-up concerns, the players compare as follows for 550 at bats:

PLAYER
AVG HR
RBI
SB
OPS
RC
WS
Winn
.286
12
81
21
.772
80
15.81
Ibanez
.304
18
71
1
.825
77
14.86
Jacobsen
.275
31
96
0
.835
75
13.75


These numbers make the decision a little tough. Conventional measures show us that the best power hitter of the three is Jacobsen, but that Winn is the best of the table-setters and has the best value by both of the sabermetric statistics.

When we take it a little further and do some of the more advanced projection methods available, things get more intriguing. Is it still quite as obvious as to which player is the odd man out? Using Bill James 'favorite toy' on all three and Mejdal's health factors, science makes everything that much more questionable.

PLAYER
RISK GP
AVG OPS
RC
HR
Winn
Med
149
.289
.770
86
12
Ibanez
High
137
.287
.794
79
17
Jacobsen
Low
100
.274
.882
65
22


But, if we compare them purely on 100 games so that we can see the difference between the three in equal time, it begins to favor one over the other two.

PLAYER
AVG
HR
RC
OPS
Winn
.289
6
43
.770
Ibanez
.287
11
52
.794
Jacobsen
.274
22
65
.882


And now we really start to see the power and lure of Jacobsen. So why not just play Ibanez in left and make Jacobsen the designated hitter?


Scouting

The Question of the Moment- 'Are there any advantages to having Winn as a part of the offense?' This is where baseball tradition and scouting start to have their natural impact.

Winn is a switch-hitter and Ibanez is a left-handed hitter. Those two facts are keys on this club, particularly at home where Safeco Field favors left-handed hitters. Most organizations try to get as many left-handed hitters in the lineup as possible and if the M's starting nine includes both Winn and Ibanez it gives the lineup five righties, three lefties and a switch-hitter- pretty close to the an ideal everyday major league lineup.

Another advantage of Winn is his abilities as a table-setter- the leadoff and No. 2 hitter in a lineup. He is a capable basestealer and a veteran of the role for the balance of his career. Reed is the only other player on the club that fits into that role and the rookie could struggle.

"Winn allows the middle of the order to just drive in runs," said one American League scout. "With a rookie in that spot, if he fails or struggles, the 3-4-5 hitters have to add ‘moving the runner over' as another responsibility. Not to say Reed ‘can't', but in that case it is better to use the veteran."

The scout continues on to point out Winn's underrated abilities as a left-handed hitter.

"Winn is a 16-18 homer guy as a lefty, too," added the scout. "You put him in a better park to hit in and bat him lefty 600 times, he may go .275-20-85."

Knowing this, we start to understand why Bill Bavasi wants to get Randy Winn in the lineup. It makes old-fashioned baseball sense in that it puts the veteran in a key role and takes into account which side of the plate he can hit from.


Networking

This skill comes into play most often when dealing with other clubs for trades. It seems that Bavasi leans on his network to find out what old allies and enemies in the game think about his players. Our biggest indicator of this is that Winn has been the most requested offensive player on the Mariners' roster in trade talks over the winter.

Recently though, InsideThePark.com has learned s that a number of clubs have inquired about the availability of the 32-year-old Ibanez, who it seems is viewed as a cheap, lefty power-hitter. These two examples may influence Bavasi's decision to advise manager Mike Hargrove as to which two of the three players warrant the most playing time.


Financial Management

Sure there's the subject of money, but both bench salary and starting salary are the same. It is not a factor for this club as the payroll is within a tiny percent of where the front office and ownership feels it should be. Who gets playing time won't be determined by dollars, but by who can best help the club win games.

Now other general managers looking at the three players in question see a minor league veteran capable of playing only the DH spot and first base, a left-handed medium-power bat in the corners of the outfield- with two years and $7.95 million remaining on his contract, and a switch-hitting speedster capable of playing center field who has $7.5 million left on his deal. For just about every team in the league, their needs mesh best with the speedy outfielder. The money looks quite reasonable in the current market.


This fan of the fusion concept saw Winn as the second best hitter on a bad club in 2004 and has always seen him as the kind of player who fits the bill as a fifth or sixth best hitter on a playoff club. But we just can't ignore the power of Jacobsen and would have to find a way to get him into at least one hundred games. No club, if given the opportunity, could turn its back on 25-plus home runs from a .275 hitter. The club needs to move Winn, not for salary reasons, but because he has value. No player with his skills should be on a bench.

At this point it seems that Bavasi, by going with Winn and Ibanez, is a GM that favors using scouting and networking to influence his decisions. He has chosen to stick with the two higher value contracts, the two known quantities, the two players that many of the other teams have inquired to add to their clubs.



Dave Clark can be reached at bedir@hotmail.com




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