Jack will be Back

Personal Note: Sorry for the extended hiatus here.  I’ve been working on a huge series (the technical term is “humungo”) which I have not finished, but it will have graphs and important-sounding words like “correlation” and “humungo.”  And had a couple of days of back-to-school related dorm move-ins and the like.

In case you were wondering.

jack12The picture is from an article we did a few months back called “Jack 1 and Jack 2” (which is here).

We also had one on Jack Z as “strategic negotiator” (which is here).

The gist of our view is:

  • When Z first arrived, I believe Tony Blengino had him convinced that (1) a team could not win in Safeco Field without left-handed hitters with high on-base percentages, (2) hitting the ball in the air was death in Seattle, and (3) therefore, defense was essential.
  • Thus arrived Chone Figgins, Endy Chavez Round 1 (when he was expected to be something of a regular), line-drive hitting Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez for his glove, Casey Kotchman, LH-oriented Justin Smoak, etc.
  • The result in 2010 was an offense that was last in the majors in OPS … by 28 points!  Astros 29th at .665, Mariners 30th at .637!  Ichrio, Figgins and Kotchman were all among the least likely to hit fly balls.
  • But while Saber-Z (the thinnest part of the Z-stew) was off to that massive false start, Scout-Z (the heartiest part) was at the head of Tom McNamara’s crew that was restocking the empty pipeline, nabbing Kyle Seager, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, Nick Franklin (flipped to Austin Jackson, of course), and an endless supply of relievers with draft picks that are hit-or-miss for most organizations.
  • And eventually Scout-Z deposed Blengino and went back to his Scout-gut: acquiring Jesus Montero was the first sign.  Finally, it was OK to get right-handed hitters who launch the ball in the air … just look for ones who can rip it with Buhner-level authority (Adrian Beltre notwithstanding, Bone had a .218 ISO in 398 Safeco plate appearances and Richie Sexson had a .227).  That project is still ongoing, but Mike Zunino is running point for an emerging group with D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan soon to follow (maybe Jabari Blash), and Alex Jackson eventually.
  • And all along Negotiator-Z was somewhere in between.  His worst move was probably the Doug Fister-for-a-fistful-of-air-and-eventually-a-strong-lefty-reliever-in-Charlie-Furbush deal, but, again, I think that was a reaction to the “false start.”  He needed right-handed power, and his Scout-gut told him Casper Wells could deliver.  He was wrong, and I think the saber-evidence was against Wells (from my own analysis anyway), but Z was right that he needed more right-handed guys who can launch the ball.  Fister-for-Wells was a panic move, but one that showed some sense about what was needed to avoid the whole “team-ISO-of-.103” thing.
  • And, despite some legitimate griping about his trade-negotiation approach, Z did emerge with a nice-sized win in snagging Austin Jackson out of the David Price deal.  Franklin desperately needed to be flipped for an outfielder, and Z ended up with a very good one without giving up anything other than a guy with no role on his roster.
  • Overall, the bottom line is this: the franchise is pretty healthy and the only players not brought into the organization in the Zduriencik era are Felix (international free agent during Pat Gillick era), Michael Saunders (2004 draft under Bill Bavasi) and Brandon Maurer (2008 draft under Bavasi).  That’s it.  Oh, and Nate Tenbrink in Tacoma (also 2008 draft).  Everyone else is attributable to Z.  (And even Felix signed his long-term deal under Z.)

So is he deserving of an extension?  Yes.  Sure.  He has brought in talent, and that talent is making a real difference.  Lloyd McClendon seems to be a strong (though belated) move as well.  He was a rookie GM, and it took awhile to get his bearings in some areas, but he knew from the start that creating a pipeline of talent was the most important job … and he’s done that.



7 thoughts on “Jack will be Back

  1. Great assessment, Spec. When Jack was handed the reins here, the team was in its worse condition since maybe its inception. It only made sense to allow him a few years to sort things out. His first season was just short of a baseball miracle. Albeit through a series of missteps, Jack has kept his eye on the ball and continued to develop the talent base. Most importantly to my mind, he has learned and we don’t see him repeating the same mistakes, but rather learn from them. He hired the right manager, hasn’t repeated Fister type trades. He didn’t swap a Jaso to get a Corey Hart. I think the grace period is over, and the next 2+ seasons will be the ones on which we will judge his career as GM. We will know if the pipeline was truly built strong, if he can pull off the difficult trade in which a true prospect is swapped for a real chance to win the ring, and if he can make the difficult choices on where to allocated financial resources for long term growth – will he keep the right guys (e.g., Seager) and let the right guys walk (e.g., Ackley?). A big chunk of his payroll is wrapped up in two megastars. He needs to show adeptness in choosing who will be the supporting cast.

  2. In a sense Jack has mirrored the career of his first big draft pick, Dustin Ackley. Both started their job with promising tools to succeed, but despite initial hot starts at their profession and flashes of brilliance throughout, the overall package for the first four years seemed underwhelming. Now both seem to be putting the tools and experience together in order to become at least serviceable.

  3. What I find odd is that to me it seems as if GMZ has followed an excellent plan for restocking the system and Major League team. He initially concentrated on ‘lower floor’, less toolsy players, gym rats, left-handed hitters and especially middle infield and catcher positions (ton of catchers in 2011). Thus leaving the theoretically easier corner positions to fill in later (by draft or trade).

    One complaint I have read many times is that his drafting style doesn’t get us any potential “superstars”. While that may be true, I think it was due by design due to having so many holes to fill. Now that we are beginning to realize our original goals, the mariners felt OK with throwing all their chips into trying to hit on a bust-out superstar (I put Alex Jackson, Garreth Morgan, and even Austin Wilson into this class).

    Sorry for the long narrative, but I don’t believe this to be a radical shift in drafting strategy, rather a natural progression.

    • Odd to me in the sense that while others look at the last six years to be disjointed, abrupt changes in direction; I see it as one smooth long term process.

  4. Thanks for your reasonable assessments. One thing I think is a problem with most others I’ve read is in expectation. To take a franchise from the almost entirely barren level it was at when he took over to the stocked and competitive level it’s at in 6 years seems reasonable to me and a success when compared to all other rebuilds that have taken place in MLB. The idea of a 4 year rebuild seems to be absolute fantasy and yet so many seem to think this should be expected.

    The other thing I notice quite a bit is people flipping their opinion. 6 months ago almost everyone thought Hart at even more money than he got was a good idea and now many of the same people are trying to call it bad process. Acquisitions of Montero, Smoak, Figgins, and many others were largely liked at the time but the same people now paint them with revisionist history. It was bad process then (although few thought so at the time) since it hasn’t panned out how we hoped. Only the Fister deal and Jaso deal were largely disliked at the time and I personally think Jaso for Morse was a good roll of the dice at possibly the wrong time (a year early? ) that didn’t work out. Furbush-Fister is the only deal I hold against him as flat out bad in his entire tenure. Well, we do have Furbush still and the trade name will probably always make me smile regardless. Furbush-Fister…Not entirely bad in that light. Many of the catcher signings I didn’t like at the time or later, but I wouldn’t trade our catchers for anyone else’s right now.

    Stacking up all the bad vs all the good it’s really hard to understand how so many see him as worse than average considering needs at each stage and the fact that few prospects of any note have been traded at all during his tenure and yet we’re sitting here in contention with a largely young talented roster full of depth most everywhere, top 1/3 of game farm (at worst I think) and manageable payrolls going into the next few years. Where’d the rest of the water go for all these glass-half-full-or-less estimations of Zduriencik’s tenure? Perception of too-high expectations chased with revisionist-history is the only reasoning I can make of it all.

  5. Spec… I know you have been really busy with life and such… but if you could put up your Spec 66 for coming into this year, at least we will have something positive to talk about and possible something extra especial to look forward to next year.

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