After a disappointing 9-5 loss to Texas Friday night, the Mariners’ losing streak has reached 7. Now at 20-28, the season appears to be slipping slowly away. Rather than discuss how they could improve, let’s take a look at the horror of a losing streak at a glance through some key numbers.
34 – The Mariners run deficit over the past seven losses. They’ve been beaten in pretty much every way imaginable. Three walkoffs, two shutouts, and a few complete drubbings.
23 – The Mariners run deficit since leaving Cleveland. The Angels solidly demolished the M’s in two games (Seattle scored one run) and the Rangers handled them at Safeco last night. So how did the Mariners respond to their worst series of the year? About as badly as they possibly could have.
5 – The lowest run total of any Mariner opponent in the streak, from Cleveland’s walkoff win last Saturday. The Mariners pitching has been horrendous in the streak, both starters and bullpen and sometimes both at once (see Tuesday’s 12-0 loss to the Angels).
1 – Quality starts by Mariners pitchers in the seven-game skid. Brandon Maurer delivered it in the 6-3 loss to the Indians that started the streak last Friday. Of course, Maurer also posted a complete stinker on Tuesday which pretty much made up for it.
7 – Mariners home runs in the losing streak. Not a horrible number, but they don’t have one since the final game in Cleveland. That’s what going nearly scoreless in Anaheim will do to a team.
.227 – Batting average of Mariners centerfielder Michael Saunders after a hitless night in the leadoff spot Friday. Before the losing streak began, Saunders was hitting .262. He should lose his leadoff spot soon if nothing changes.
.287 – Batting average of the Mariners leading hitter, Kendrys Morales, who has raised his average 19 points in the streak and developed into a legit middle of the order bat.
53 – Points by which Brendan Ryan has increased his batting average in the losing streak, getting him over the Mendoza line (.202) last night for the first time since April 13.
Some of these numbers are good, most bad. One thing is clear: the Mariners need to win and do it soon. Otherwise, the season will be lost.
The Mariners enter tonight game against Texas at 20-27 after losing their final six games of a nine-game road trip (2-7). “Safeco” Joe Saunders (3-4, 5.64 ERA) takes his 9-0 mark in 13 starts in Seattle into Friday against Justin Grimm (3-3, 4.02 ERA). Grimm has lost three of his past four starts. With massive turmoil in Mariners land today, here are some storylines to track.
Andino designated for assignment
After a horrendous two-month stint as the Mariners’ utility infielder, Robert Andino was DFA’d today to make room for Jesus Sucre on the 40-man roster. Andino was placed on waivers but was not originally going to be DFA’d immediately. That was until the news broke on Twitter (thank Dave Cameron), and the Mariners rushed to make it officially.
Andino played in 29 games for Seattle this season, posting a .184 batting average and a homer-less four RBI. He racked up an on-base percentage of .253 and slugged just .237 with four total extra base hits, all doubles. He provided average defense, committing two errors while playing primarily shortstop, but also third and second base. Mariners fans won’t remember him fondly, but this is still one of my favorite baseball related pictures. See ya later, Bob.
Truinfel to Seattle
When Jesus Montero was sent to Tacoma yesterday, not many people expected that to signal the middle infield change so many of us bloggers have called for to happen as a result. But, lo and behold, Andino is gone, and Carlos Truinfel has replaced him on the 40-man roster as the Mariners’ utility infielder. As Geoff Baker reported earlier, Truinfel was on his way to Reno with the Rainiers when the Mariners made him turn around and come join the big club. Although not in the lineup and not expected to play tonight, Truinfel, who hit .300 with four home runs and 19 RBI in 44 games in Tacoma this year, could improve the horrid Seattle shortstop position.
Sucre making major league debut
The Mariners are throwing Jesus Sucre right into the fire tonight, as he will start at catcher and hit eighth. Sucre hit .302 in 14 games in Tacoma this year. Here’s the rest of the lineup ahead of the Mariner’s return home at 7:10 PT tonight.
- Saunders CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Morse RF
- Ibanez LF
- Smoak 1B
- Sucre C
- Ryan SS
Dave Cameron reported early this morning that Robert Andino has been outrighted to waivers, meaning he is done as a Seattle Mariner. Carlos Triunfel will be called up to replace him and Brad Miller is being called up to AAA to replace Triunfel. Apparently the Mariners were not ready to make the move as Triunfel was in Reno with the Rainiers. But since Cameron leaked the story they were forced to bring back Triunfel and Jesus Sucre will be joining him in Seattle.
It seems fitting that Andino’s Mariner career ends in a confusing story broken by a blogger and not a beat reporter. During Spring Training I was a fan of Andino. If he could hit league average and backup all three infield spots, our stupid five man DH/1B/corner outfield arrangement was going to work out. Unfortunately for Andino, he was nowhere close to hitting league average. But he was a better hitter than Brendan Ryan. So congratulations to you Robert Andino, if nothing else, you showed Seattle fans that you are a slightly better hitter than Brendan Ryan.
I already discussed why this move is necessary, and why Brendan Ryan is better than Andino and why Triunfel gets the call over Nick Franklin. But to sum those points up, Triunfel has some MLB playing time and Franklin would lose a year of team control if brought up now. And Ryan’s defense makes him a much better option than Andino, even if neither can hit.
The real winner in this, besides Carlos Triunfel, is the Tacoma Rainiers. They now have the future middle infield of the Mariners playing together in Miller and Franklin. Add Paxton, Hultzen when he returns from injury and possibly Taijuan Walker later this summer and that Tacoma team is stacked with prospects. So if nothing else, at least the Tacoma Rainiers should be fun to watch this year.
Anyway, Robert Andino is gone. The Mariners should be a better team and a slightly less boring one. I doubt Triunfel pulls a Mike Trout and starts destroying the ball, but he should be a serviceable back up who can hopefully cover Seager at third when he needs a day off. He should be better than Andino, and if he is not, Nick Franklin and now Brad Miller are close to being ready.
When 1B/DH Kendrys Morales was brought in this offseason, he was generally thought of as a power first bat, and for good reason. His OBP the year before was just .320, despite having a .273 average. .260 is a roughly average average, and .320 is about an average OBP. So his average was 13 points above “average”, but his OBP remained, due to a low walk rate.
Thus, it is easy to see why he is considered the way he is. Roughly 60% of his career .820 OPS has come from his slugging percentage, leaving about 40% to come from average. On average over the last three years (for the league), 56% of OPS has come from slugging, so Morales was a notch higher.
But he has changed as a player this year. His overall production is roughly the same as last year (.351 wOBA, 118 wRC+ career .346 and 122 this year), but how that production is coming to be is different. All of the sudden, he has been getting on base at a much higher clip, while losing a little bit of pop.
His OBP is at .356, which is one point above his career high (in what was by far his best season). And his .434 SLG% is a career low, with the previous low being the .467 he posted last year. And he is now getting just 55% of his OPS from his power, going from 3% above “average” to 1% below “average.” So clearly there has been a change in the kind of hitter he is, at least to this point.
Upon noticing this, I saw the opportunity for a post on the topic. So I searched and searched for some kind of deep explanation as to why this is happening. Turns out, there isn’t really a conclusive reason as to why he has become an on-base first guy this season.
I mean, there is the obvious explanation as to why his OBP has gone up. That being the fact that he has been way more patient at the plate, resulting in more walks.
|2006||Angels||30.9 %||68.4 %||49.9 %||71.2 %||89.3 %||83.8 %||50.8 %||63.3 %||7.9 %|
|2007||Angels||38.3 %||71.5 %||49.4 %||62.3 %||90.7 %||76.1 %||33.6 %||46.8 %||10.9 %|
|2008||Angels||32.6 %||68.7 %||48.3 %||71.4 %||94.1 %||85.5 %||43.4 %||43.9 %||6.6 %|
|2009||Angels||32.1 %||64.0 %||46.1 %||63.8 %||88.5 %||78.8 %||43.8 %||56.6 %||9.2 %|
|2010||Angels||30.8 %||62.9 %||45.3 %||61.1 %||90.9 %||79.8 %||45.2 %||51.2 %||8.9 %|
|2012||Angels||35.9 %||70.4 %||50.1 %||61.8 %||85.5 %||75.5 %||41.2 %||59.6 %||12.1 %|
|2013||Mariners||26.2 %||67.8 %||44.2 %||62.1 %||87.7 %||79.1 %||43.3 %||52.2 %||8.8 %|
|Total||- – -||32.9 %||66.9 %||47.6 %||63.5 %||88.2 %||78.6 %||43.3 %||56.1 %||9.8 %|
Take a look above at his plate discipline numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs. As you can see, all of his swing rates are down quite a bit. The most extreme of the three being his O-Swing%, which is down almost 10% from the year before, and 7% from his career. Obviously, that means he has not been swinging at as many bad pitches, which has led to more free passes.
So that explains his increase in walks and ability to get on base. But why is his power also down? The two aren’t inversely related in most cases, meaning as one goes up the other does not go down.
This part is not as easily explained. There really aren’t any glaring changes in terms of the amount nor the kind of contact he is making. As seen above, his contact rate is better than his career mark. And there also aren’t any significant fluctuations in his batted ball numbers. His LD% is 2.2% higher than his average, his FB% is down 1.8% (but is up from 2012), and his GB rate is right at his career average. None of those really suggest that his power should be zapped. If his line drive rate were way down, or ground ball rate way up, then maybe.
The best explanation I can find is that his HR/FB is all the way down at 11.6%, which is 5% lower than his career mark, and 9.4% lower than it was last year. But the problem with that is, it may not be a perfect explanation. It does tell us something, but its answer isn’t really specific.
Fangraphs says of FB%:
Was the player still hitting the same about of fly balls but with a lower HR/FB rate? This could imply that the player lost a touch off their power, which could be a result of an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger. Or did the player still have the same HR/FB rate, but he was hitting fewer fly balls? If a player goes from hitting fly balls to ground balls, that could be attributed to contact issues.
Kendrys falls into the first category, with a fairly similar amount of fly balls, but a crazy low HR/FB rate. And unfortunately, that likely speaks to a more permanent loss of power. We already knew he lost power, but now the numbers might suggest it is because of “an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger.” That certainly isn’t what we want to here, as I am sure most of us were hoping to find something that would suggest some regression to the mean, and an re-increase in power.
And it still might. HR/FB doesn’t stabilize until about 300 plate appearances, and he is only a little more than half way there. His slugging percentage has been on the rise recently, and that trend may continue until he reaches a more normal mark. Or, he may be sacrificing some aggressiveness and pop for more patience and contact. We don’t really know for sure.
At this point, thankfully, it doesn’t really matter all that much if he stays this way. He has been roughly the same player in terms of productivity, and that is what matters. If anything, this increase in patience and discipline is a blessing. Those traits tend to stick around, and walk rate is much quicker to stabilize — and he is about 20 PA way from that point — rendering a sudden revert to his old numbers unlikely. Conversely, as I said before, there is still a chance that his power returns a little, which would create a perfect situation. Kendrys prior power combined with this current on-base ability would make for a very valuable player. And we like value around here.
Baseball, more than any other sport, is all about numbers. This was the case even before the sabermetric craze that divides analysts today and inspires numerous a JJ Keller column on this website. In this new segment, I take a look at the numbers that shaped a series, beginning with the disastrous sweep in Cleveland this past weekend.
75 – Percent of the games that ended in Cleveland walkoffs. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes all delivered game-ending hits against Mariner relievers in the series. This brutal stretch of three paintful defeats in four actually isn’t unprecedented for Seattle, who suffered a similar feat at the hands of the Orioles and Indians back in May of 2011. Avoid Cleveland in May is good advice for Seattlelites. Actually, just avoid Cleveland in general.
5 – Earned runs allowed by both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in their Sunday-Monday starts. Felix took his third loss of 2013 while the Mariners continued to hit for Iwakuma, and he earned a no decision. The Mariners cannot win wiht their one-two punch leaking runs like both did this weekend.
3 – Home runs Mariners hit off of Chris Perez in his two appearances in the series. When Perez came in with a two run lead and quickly retired the first two Mariners he faced, the game was assumed over. But back-to-back jacks from Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak gave the Mariners new life (which they would soon extinguish). In Monday’s ninth inning, Perez served up a lead-off, pinch-hit homer to Endy Chavez of all people.
11 – Hits allowed in 5.1 innings by Joe Saunders Saturday in what Root Sports analysts were calling “a good start” from the veteran lefty. No! That was a terrible start! Are you crazy? The wind knocked down a home run and gifted him a double play and he still gave up a home run to the next batter he faced! No more road Joe please.
430 – Pitches thrown by Mariners starters, in appearances that ranged between five and six innings in length. Only Brandon Maurer produced a quality start of the four. All four threw over 100 pitches.
2 (but really 3) – Errors committed by pitchers in Monday morning’s horrendous 10-8 loss. Iwakuma made an early error and Charlie Furbush screwed up a late sacrifice bunt play but the error was charge to Smoak. But none was more glaring or costly than Tom Wilhelmsen’s clank job as he stepped on first for the game’s final out. That error marked Wilhelmsen’s first blown save of 2013 in 12 chances.
7 – Batters retired consecutively by Danny Farquhar in his first appearance with the Mariners. He struck out five of them, but his great performance will be lost in the shuffle of an overall terrible series.
1 – Home run on the season for Brendan Ryan, who turned the corner in Cleveland. He went 5-for-13 with his first two extra base hits of 2013. Will he go on a tear and fight his way over the Mendoza line now? Who knows?
The Mariners play at 7:05 PT in Anaheim tonight and will try and snap the four-game skid this horrific series put them on.
Most people know that I am one of Raul Ibanez‘s biggest critics. Being of the sabermetric-mold, I do not place very much value in a 40 year old DH-in-the-outfield, who can only hit in Yankee Stadium. I don’t know why, but that just isn’t appealing to me. More traditional fans do not necessarily focus on that though, and will point to his veteran leadership. And that is just fine. Raul seems like a great guy, and might be able to mentor some of the kids. But there are problems with that too.
In reality, there is not much he can do. Sure, he can tell people to keep their head up or whatever, but it comes down to the players ability. Encouragement is great, but it doesn’t really matter if the recipient just can’t hit. Raul follow me around day and night, giving me words of wisdom and encouragement. Doesn’t replace the fact that I am an out of shape, slightly lazy 17 year old, who stopped playing select baseball at 14 because I just was not that great anymore. If I would have worked my butt off like my friends who kept playing, then maybe it would be different. But it still comes down to what I can do, not what someone is telling me I can do.
So those are the basic reasons why I disagreed with the Raul signing, especially for $2.75M. That and the fact that I knew he was still going to get a lot of playing time despite being a veteran presence. My reasoning for that belief? See Miguel Olivo over John Jaso last year.
But, over the last week or so, things have changed a bit. Raul is no longer hitting below the interstate (that’s .190 for those who do not get the reference), and in fact, is crushing the ball. After today’s tough loss in Cleveland, he has 6 homers in 7 games. And dating back to May 4th against Toronto he has slashed a ridiculous .375/.394/1.031. This streak has led many to start talking about how good Raul really is, in addition to his veteran presence.
While it is nice to see him hit like this, it is not going to continue. I am sorry, but it just won’t. He now has a .839 OPS on the season, which is 328 points higher than the .511 he had before the streak. There are a few different reasons why there is no way he sustains the .839:
- 6 of the his last 8 games, when the success started, have been on the road. Raul thrives in hitter-friendly parks. Yankee Stadium is a prime example. He had a .343 wOBA there last year, compared to .223 on the road. And that pattern continued this year, and 4 of his hits and 3 of his home runs came in New York. He won’t have the luxury of playing in that little league field they call a big league stadium anymore.
- .562 points of his .839 OPS have come from his slugging percentage. Hitting 6 home runs in a week will do that for you. Raul does not have that kind of power anymore, or ever really. That would be the highest SLG% of his career, and he obviously won’t sustain it. Plus, it is hard to have any long term success with a OBP under .300.
- Raul just is not that good, plain and simple. He used to be, but at his age, he is not the same. He will probably have another one of these stints where he crushes the ball. That is what hitters like him do. But I would not think they will last much longer than this one has.
There is also another big point that I think needs to be made, despite it’s “elementary” feel. Defense is still a part of the game. I know it sounds simple, but people ignore it. Everyone sees the dingers and forgets that Raul is the most gif-able player in the league. Before today’s game (because it isn’t updated as fast) Raul’s WAR was a -0.1. He was costing the team 1/10th of a win with his play. That will probably go up a tad, maybe to an even 0, or a positive decimal. So despite this show he has put on at the plate, his overall value is extremely low. He can’t field, he can’t run, and he can only kind of hit sometimes.
Hot streaks are fun. It is good to see a fan favorite like Raul kill the ball, especially against a team like the Yankees. But do not take this for more than it is. An anomaly. A rather exciting one, but an anomaly nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong either. I like Raul and respect the player he was for the Mariners. But the key word is was. He is not that same player, and if I had it my way, he probably wouldn’t be on the team.
I know a lot of what I said will seem pretty obvious to most of you. But there are a lot of people who overreact to things like this, and do not understand how things like this work. In fact, I would say most traditional-thinking fans would fall into this category, so I still think this was a point that needed to be made. You probably won’t see USS Mariner or Lookout Landing making this sort of post, but they do not appeal to the casual fan as much as we do at Sodo Mojo.
The Mariners fell to the Indians 6-3 in 10 innings last night, as Jason Kipnis ripped a walk-off three-run blast off of Lucas Luetge. Seattle missed out on their first opportunity to reach the .500 mark since the second week of April, and fell to 20-22. This morning, the Mariners get underway at 10:05 PT, with Joe Saunders taking on Zach McAllister. Before they get
underway in Cleveland, here are some things to look out for.
Woeful road Joe
Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Saunders’ four starts on the road in 2013:
April 3, Oakland: 4 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 3 K
April 19, Texas: 4.2 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 0 K
April 24, Houston: 5 IP, 8 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 2 K
May 5, Toronto: 5 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K
All four of these are horrid starts in their own special ways, and all four are Mariners’ losses by wide margins. The closest game of the bunch was the first one, a 6-2 loss to the A’s. Anything can happen in baseball, but starting Joe Saunders on the road this year has been akin to a forfeit for the Mariners. Part of that may be that he only has five strikeouts in 18.2 road innings this year. He’s relying on contact too much and paying the price. His 12.54 road ERA has to come down today for the Mariners to sniff success.
Saunders gets day off
Endy Chavez is leading off and playing centerfield today, a role Michael Saunders has occupied in every game since returning from the disabled list. Eric Wedge and my northwest.com’s Shannon Drayer played it off like a regular day off, but Saunders has been slumping lately. Three of his last four games resulted in 0-for-5 performances, and in those three games, he totaled seven strikeouts. That doesn’t equate to quality lead off hitting, and Saunders’ time in that slot could be limited if Chavez or Dustin Ackley can keep hitting.
Morse returns from eye trouble
The official word on Michael Morse’s eye irritation last night was that he poked himself in the eye some time leading up to Friday’s game and had issues with a dislodged contact and blurred vision for the rest of the night. The Mariners could have used his hot bat yesterday, as runs were few and far between. Hopefully the eye issue doesn’t derail Morse’s hot streak, during which he has racked up nine hits in his past four games.
Here’s the lineup for today:
- Chavez CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Morse RF
- Ibanez LF
- Smoak 1B
- Montero C
- Ryan SS
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The Mariners begin a three-game series with the Yankees in the Bronx today at 4:05 PT. Here are a few storylines to follow throughout the series.
Tuesday features class of AL starters
Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia. Both names evoke thoughts of terrifying and elite pitching prowess. Both names will appear in Tuesday night’s lineup card with a “P” next to their names. With Felix, a former Cy Young winner with a 1.53 2013 ERA, and CC, a former Cy Young winner at the head of the Evil Empire’s rotation, runs will likely prove few and far between. Who has the advantage? Sabathia tends to dominate the Mariners, with a 12-4 record and 2.46 ERA in 20 career starts against Seattle. But Felix pitches lights out in Yankee Stadium, with a 4-1 record and 2.13 ERA since its inaguration in 2010. It’s a close matchup, by I give Felix the slight edge because of how well he has pitched so far in 2013.
Andino, Ryan starting together again
The two worst hitters on the 25-man roster will both start for the second consecutive game for the Mariners. Andino will play second and Ryan shortstop, even though the two are hitting .159 and .122, respectively. Why? Well first of all, Dustin Ackley is left-handed and Sabthia could pose a matchup nightmare for him. Ackley is 1-for-7 career against Sabathia with four strikeouts (although that one hit was a two-run homer). Perhaps more to the heart of the matter, Andino and Ryan have the Mariners’ two best career averages against Sabathia. Ryan is 4-for-10 with three walks, while Andino checks in at 10-for-28 with a home run. Add in the fact that both hit the ball hard twice on Sunday, and runs could be produced from the bottom of the Mariners’ order tonight.
Granderson returns for New York
Manager Joe Girardi stuck Curtis Granderson in the cleanup spot and in left field Tuesday for his season debut, after he fractured his forearm during his first at-bat of Spring Training. Granderson, a three-time all star, hit .232 with 43 home runs and 106 RBI last season for the Yankees. In 2011, he led the American League in RBI and runs scored. Against Felix, Granderson is a career .273 hitter in 55 at-bats, with two homers and 20 strikeouts. Granderson is the first of a long list of injured Yankee starts to return to the lineup this season, and could provide New York with a big lift. It’s not like the Yankees exactly need one, though, as they come into tonight at 24-14, one game up on the Orioles in the AL East.
First pitch is at 4:05 PT and will be from Sabathia to Michael Saunders. Here’s the rest Mariners’ lineup:
- Saunders CF
- Bay LF
- Seager 3B
- Morales 1B
- Morse RF
- Shoppach C
- Ibanez DH
- Andino 2B
- Ryan SS
Happy Felix Day!
I have defended leaving Brendan Ryan at shortstop for a while, even when he was hitting below .200 for the majority of last year and partially into this year. But after almost 30 games and almost 100 AB’s I have officially given up on him. His defense is phenomenal and if he could hit .250 he would be a very valuable player to have. But this is the realization I am steadily having about Brendan Ryan: He cannot hit .250 in the MLB, or even .225. And expecting him to do so anymore is a waste.
What has finally made me lose my last straw was finally looking at his stats, in both the box score and online. We all know his triple slash line is awful and that he has struck out as many times as he has had an RBI, scored a run, walked AND stolen a base combined. I am not kidding, that’s 19 on each as of the morning of May 13. But those things just show how bad he is, and what I am more interested in is why he sucks. Or, to put it more succinctly, what changed from last year or two years ago that is suddenly causing him to suck.
And the really sad answer that has caused me to give up on him is that really not much. His K%’s have gone from 17.6 to 20.4 since 2011 and his BB% has shifted from 6.9 to 8.6, which should offset the uptick in K’s. His batted ball profile (Line drive %, fly ball % and ground ball %) is almost identical, with a small drop in line drives and small gain in fly balls. He is seeing the same percentage of pitches according to pitch F/X and even swinging at a similar percentage of pitches inside and outside the strike zone (All of these numbers can be found on Fangraphs). It is this information that has driven me give up on Ryan, quite simply he is not an MLB-level hitter anymore.
So this takes us to the actual productive part of this article (As much as I love being Captain Obvious, I think we all knew Brendan Ryan couldn’t hit). And that is what the Mariners can do about this situation because I really doubt that Wedge can justify starting a shortstop that hits less than his weight (This is both shortstops on the roster right now). There are a few options in AAA, namely Nick Franklin and Carlos Triunfel. Franklin is the new sexy middle infield prospect who has torn up AAA pitching in about 30 games. Triunfel is the prospect turned bust, turned somewhat interesting player who is still only 23. Franklin would be the better replacement for Ryan but there are a series of factors that could see Triunfel as the short-term replacement.
First of all, Robert Andino should be cut before Ryan is. Andino is cheaper and worse defensively than Ryan. Offensively they are pretty much a push; Andino is sporting a solid .159 average in 70 AB’s. But this comes with the issue that Andino is also the backup third baseman. So whoever is called up would have to play some third base when Kyle Seager or Dustin Ackley need a rest. This requirement favors Triunfel, not because Franklin can’t play third, but because Triunfel has the stronger arm. I would not be surprised to see Wedge cite that as a reason for choosing Triunfel over Franklin, he also cares little for plate discipline, which Triunfel lacks.
The second issue is one of experience. Triunfel has played with the Mariners before, albeit briefly in September last year. Franklin is also a prospect and the issue of service time comes up. The Mariners do not want to start his service clock early and lose a year of team control over Franklin. This becomes a non-issue once we get deeper into summer and Franklin can be called up without starting his service clock. Meaning Triunfel could be called up soon to replace Andino but then replaced by Franklin later in the year.
Nick Franklin should be called up to replace Robert Andino and share time with Brendan Ryan. This team cannot carry TWO shortstops who are hitting less than their bodyweight. One of Ryan or Andino should be cut to help improve the offense. Even if Franklin or Triunfel do play poorly, they are getting MLB experience and that will make them better, even if they struggle at first. Andino and Ryan are not getting better by playing everyday, they are making the team worse. And as much as I love the talking buffalo commercial, its time to let the next generation of players get experience, meaning Ryan or Andino have to go.
Dustin Ackley‘s struggles to this point of his career have obviously led to a lot of disappointment, anger, and probably some prayers for a break-out. But it has also caused people to search high and low for some kind of sign that suggests he is likely to reach the potential that most people assigned to him. One way that people do this is to look for a comparisons. They try to find another player who had similar expectations, but took awhile to reach them.
And the prime candidate seems to be Alex Gordon. Gordon won multiple awards in college, leading him to be selected 2nd overall in 2005. He then hit well in the minors, and was even named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. But, it all went down from there.
In his first MLB season, Gordon posted a lowly .316 wOBA and 87 wRC+, far below expectations. He had another disappointing season in 2008, and then saw his playing time decrease over the next few years. He went from the next big thing, to the next big bust. From the next George Brett, to “Who is Alex Gordon?”. But again things changed, this time for the better. He had a breakout year in 2011, posting a .382 wOBA and 141 wRC+, coupled with great defense in left field, which then led to a 6.7 WAR season.
So it is easy to see where the comparisons come from. They are similar players who both failed to reach expectations at the beginning of their careers. But let’s look at how the two actually compare through 1161 plate appearances. (Note: I used the triple-slash instead of wOBA and wRC+ because they are easier to calculate by myself. Also, the Swing and Contact rates may not be 100% accurate, but close enough.)
Unfortunately, the comparison is not as close as people want it to be at this point. Gordon has the edge in everything except Contact% and K rate, two pretty minor stats. You would hope that your K rate is low and contact rate is high, but it isn’t necessary to find success.
The biggest difference though is the slugging percentage. Ackley’s power-outage this year is something I touched on before, and is really holding him back. His BB% is also way down this year as well, so that needs to change too if he wants to be more than a singles only hitter with an empty .250 average. (Hint: That isn’t very valuable.)
So at this stage of the game, the comparison looks pretty baseless. Sure, they were both highly regarded prospects who struggled/are struggling. But Ackley has out-struggled Gordon, and it is not even close. Plus, Gordon was a 2+ fWAR player even with an 87 wRC+ because of his awesome defense. And while Ackley has looked pretty solid out there himself, I don’t think he can hit like he is and still be considered an average starter (~2 WAR for those who don’t know).
Remember when I said people are constantly looking for glimmers of hope? Well, I am one of those people. Because of that, I ran another regression designed to “predict wOBA”. I ran a regression to project BABIP a few weeks ago, so refer to that if you need any more information or details on what a regression is.
Here are the results:
|Adjusted R Square||0.732239|
|Coefficients||Standard Error||t Stat||P-value||Lower 95%||Upper 95%||Lower 95.0%||Upper 95.0%|
As you can see, I used ISO, O-Swing and Z-Contact as the “predictors”, because they represent the three phases of hitting — those being power, patience and contact — very well. And that turned out to be true, as there is a very high r^2, at .73.
So, using those numbers, we can try to predict what a player’s wOBA should be, to about 73% accuracy. When we do so for Gordon, using his numbers in his first 1161 plate appearances, we get the following equation:
0.084 + 0.58 * .168 – 0.11 * .24 + .21 * .84 = .331
So according to this formula, Gordon’s wOBA “should” have been around .331. And that is right between the .316 and .343 he put up in 2007 and 2008 respectively, which I think helps the credibility of this formula. He has since surpassed that obviously, but at that point in his career, that’s about the kind of hitter he was. It also kind of gives us something to compare Ackley too, because we know that it can be pretty accurate.
Now for Ackley:
.084 + 0.58 * 0.11 – 0.11 * 0.25 + .21 * 0.90 = .309
This is telling us that Ackley’s career wOBA should be around .309. His actual career wOBA? .293, a decent clip lower than the prediction. But you know what is kind of cool (for my self-esteem, not Ackley), is that if we factor in the standard error, which in this case is about 0.15, we get either .294, or .324. Ackley’s actual career wOBA is .293, .001 away from the negative standard error. That may just be a coincidence. I don’t have a good enough grasp of statistical analysis of this nature. But it certainly looks like it makes sense. We don’t want to focus on the negative though. This is supposed to give us hope, not reassure us that Ackley is bound to be bad.
If we look at the positive deviation, as I said before, we get a .324 wOBA. I think most of us would definitely take that kind of offense from Ackley, especially at his position, along with his above average defense. And, in yet another scary coincidence/vote of confidence for the accuracy of this whole thing, if take the standard deviation of Gordon’s .331 wOBA, you get .346, .003 away from the wOBA he posted the following year. Man I am good/lucky.
Anyway, I really do not know if there is anything conclusive from this last part. I mainly did this to fulfill my own curiosity, and to use meaningful math. As I said, I do not know if the things I found are a sign of luck or accuracy. I am leaning towards accuracy, but I really do not know. Maybe someone out there does. But either way, just take it for what it’s worth. Or completely ignore that part if you don’t believe math. Do whatever you want. Be your own person. Don’t do drugs. Sorry, off topic.
The first part though I think is very important. There really aren’t many similarities between Ackley and Gordon. Their levels of suck are vastly different. Ackley wants to be Alex Gordon of now when he grows up, but would not complain if he became 2007-08 Gordon either. That is how different these two guys are/were, and how ridiculous it is to compare them just because they both struggled in some way early in their careers. I mean, if you are comparing them just to reassure yourself that it gets better, then fine. But I would be very careful about assuming that Ackley is bound to become an All-Star all the sudden because Gordon is.
The harsh truth is, Ackley lacks the power that Gordon has. He led the league in doubles last year, and had 23 homers the year before. Ackley is going to have to make a massive improvement if he wants to get anywhere close to that kind of production. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? Unfortunately, no.
Last week, it was reported that Mariner’s Third Base coach Jeff Datz had been diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer. Due to this very unfortunate news, he will miss some time in order to pursue treatment options.
Datz released this statement about the situation on April 27th:
Prior to today’s game, Eric Wedge and I met with the team so I could inform them that I have been diagnosed with cancer.
I wanted to let all of you know, as well.
The good news is that it was caught very early, and I have great support from my wife, my family, Eric, the coaches and staff, all the players and the Mariners organization.
I am still in the process of making some treatment decisions, but it is very possible I may have to miss some games. I do not want my absence to be a distraction to the team, which is why I am letting everyone know my situation now.
Having said that, I am not yet ready to speak about this with the media.
Once decisions on timing and treatment have been made, I’ll be happy to talk to all of you at once. Until then, I would appreciate your patience as we all focus on baseball.
This is obviously terrible news for Datz, his family, and everyone else who knows him. Cancer is an awful part of life, and it sucks that it is so common. But as Datz said, it was caught very early, and he has a lot of support around him, so we should all be hopeful for his recovery.
In response to Datz’s absence, the team had to decide who was going to step in for the time being. At first, people were saying that it would be the organization’s Minor League catching director John Sterns. However, it has now been confirmed that it will instead be Triple-A manager Daren Brown who will join the M’s coaching staff as a third base coach, with Sterns filling his shoes as the Rainier’s manager.
Most of you probably remember Daren Brown from his time as the interim manager following the firing of Don Wakamatsu in 2010. Brown has been with the Mariner’s organization since 2000, including the last 6 years as the manager down in Tacoma. I, and I would assume most fans, do not know too much about Brown’s managing style, since he was only up here for a brief time. But his longevity — both in the system as a whole and as the AAA skipper — certainly speaks well to his knowledge and ability as a manager.
Many of us have been frustrated with Wedge’s managerial decisions, particularly his lack of consistency when creating the lineups, and ability to evaluate talent (see Robert Andino as starting SS, and Raul Ibanez as member of the team period). And if this team bombs again this season, both he, and GM Jack Zduriencik, could both be out of a job at season’s end. Brown would no doubt be towards the top of the list in looking for a replacement, and this choice demonstrates that.
It seems a little odd on the surface that a manager is being called up as a base coach fill-in, which could disrupt everything the Rainiers have been doing. You would think that a less-important coach would be removed from his normal spot as to create as little distraction as possible. But the fact that they went with Brown, to me at least, suggests that Wedge may have some competition for his job, and the organization wants to see how Brown handles things at the big league level. And if all goes well/to hell depending on how you look at it, Brown could be running things in Seattle by the end of the season.
Kyle Seager‘s long admired hitting streak came to an end on Tuesday, finishing at 16 games. And it was extremely impressive, even as far as streaks go, as he hit .390/.455/.661 during that time. But, unfortunately it is over, and it is time to move on.
And what better place to move to than another Mariner infielder who currently has a hitting streak of his own. That player is Dustin Ackley, whose streak currently sits at 10 games. The streak began in Texas on May 20th, and Ackley will look to extend it to 11 games tonight. During his streak, Ackley has hit an astounding .417. And on the surface, that looks amazing. Heck, its blows Seager’s .390 mark out of the water. The problem is, that Seager also produced a ton of power, while Ackley is not doing the same. His triple-slash line as a whole is .417/.421/.472, which, while still very good, does not really coincide with a .417 average. The reason for this is that during the streak, Ackley has only walked once, and has mustered just two extra base hits, both doubles. So while he is making great contact and seemingly hitting the ball at least moderately hard, he isn’t walking or getting anything in the gaps or over the fence.
Something else that is just as unnerving is that his BABIP during that stretch is a wildly unsustainable .455. That, combined with the fact that he has had no power or ability to draw walks tells us that what is happening is a little flukey, even for a hitting streak.
But lets expand this a little more, because he started hitting better before the streak started. Going back to the 13th, Dustin has a hit in 14 of 16 games, compiling a triple slash over that time of .328/.328/.379. Again, not as impressive as the average suggests. So while it may seem like he has had some massive turn around, it turns out he has merely been a somewhat respectable player instead.
Now lets expand even further, and look at the year as a whole. Ackley is currently hitting.253/.284/.286, with a .255 wOBA and 62 wRC+. More of the same in terms of the average vs. the rest. It is up to .253, almost 30 points higher than it was last year. But on the flip side, his OBP is down 10 points, and his slugging is down 42. Remember when I mentioned that he had only walked once and had 2 extra base hits during his streak. Well, you can (only) add 2 walks and 1 extra base hit to that for his season totals.
That’s right. Ackley only has 3 walks and extra base hits (all doubles) on the year. And it turns out that his patience and power were pretty much just as good when everyone was ready to send him down as they are during the 10 game streak. He currently holds a 3.1% walk rate for the year. Last year, it was 8.8%. Fortunately, his walk rate probably isn’t quite stable yet, so some positive regression is likely. But what probably have stabilized are his plate discipline numbers. And what is interesting is that there have not been massive changes from last year to now. His Swing% is up 1.6%, and his O-Swing is up 1.1%. So while there is some change, it is not all that dramatic, and probably doesn’t account for a 5.7% drop in walks.
So what can you take from this jumbled mess of flaky numbers? Well the whole purpose of this post at the beginning was to suggest that Dustin Ackley really hasn’t been all that much better during his streak than he was before. That is not true in some ways, but it is in others. He still has little to no power, and is not walking nearly enough. It is all up to how you interpret the numbers. He has been better for sure. But to what degree?
Another thing is that his walk rate may drop a little from what it was last year, but likely not the 5% it currently has. He is not swinging that much more than he used to, and his O-Swing is still about 5% lower than league average. Plus his K rate is at 13.4%, down 5.3% from last year, so it isn’t as though he is swinging at a bunch of crap and striking out a ton. All of that screams regression because it really just does not add up. A guy who swings and strikes out around 5% less than the average player who only walks 3% of the time? I don’t think so. There is a chance that he is just putting everything they throw at him in play as his Contact% is at 88.3% (~7% above average), and he isn’t allowing himself to walk or strikeout at all. But I am not really sold on that either, so I expect regression.
The streak is encouraging. Ackley is making lots of contact, and looks a lot better than he did at the start of the year. But the lack of power and decrease in walks to present a problem of their own. He has the contact part down it seems (but remember the .455 BABIP). Now let’s see if he can figure out how to draw a walk like he used to, and maybe put a few in the seats — or at least in the gap — here and there. If he can do that, we may see something a lot closer to what we first envisioned for Ackley.
It was announced earlier today that outfielder Michael Saunders has been recalled from his rehab stint and will return to the lineup in the leadoff spot. Saunders injured his shoulder back on April 6th after colliding with the outfield wall whilst attempting to catch a flyball. “The Condor” played 3 games for the Rainiers, and went 2-11 with a double, a triple and three walks.
Prior to the injury, Saunders had looked very good at the plate, and really overall. In the 9 games he played in, he had posted a .348 wOBA and 126 wRC+. He had also already accumulated 0.8 WAR, but that highly driven by his slightly inflated 4.7 UZR. Nonetheless, most people had high hopes for the rest of the year, and hoped to see him build on a breakout 2012 season in which he had a .320 wOBA and 108 wRC+.
Obviously, those hopes had to be put on hold for about 20 days while Michael recovered, and we were forced to suffer through outfield featuring some mix of Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Peguero, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Morse, the latter two of whom also suffered injuries of their own. You know, just in case Raul isn’t bad enough by himself, Morse and Guti had to miss time so he could be joined by a couple of mid-thirties bench players and a guy with a 38% K rate.
We do not know this for sure, but I think it is safe to postulate that had Saunders and the others been healthy rather than not, the M’s would be in a better position than they are in now. The outfield of Chavez, Bay and Raul would be (statistically backed) the worst outfield in the history of history over a full year. So, yeah, there’s that. We can’t know how much better, but I don’t think I am going out on much of a limb with that one. But that is all in the past. Guti is still out, but Saunders is back, and Morse looks like he is returning to form somewhat.
In response to Michael’s return, a player had to be done away with to clear a spot on the roster. Unfortunately, despite repeated cries of desperation by many in the blogosphere, that person is not Raul Ibanez. Instead, Peguero has been sent back down to Triple-A. Let me just say that again because I am sure it confused you. I am disappointed that Carlos Peguero is no longer on the major league roster. There is a person in the world that I would prefer Carlos Peguero over. It takes a special kind of suck to accomplish that. So I guess, congrats Raul?
Now, the statement above has very little to do with Peguero. Before you assume that I am buying into Peguero’s 227 wRC+ in his two games or something, let me clarify. I still firmly believe that he is a bad baseball player who will never be able to sustain any success in the majors because of his inability to make any kind of contact. No, my wanting him to stay is a sentiment to the pile of dung that is Raul Ibanez. I kind of feel bad saying that because Raul is a good guy, and was once a very good player, and a former favorite of mine. But he is 40 years old. He isn’t the same anymore, and is probably one of the worst players in the league. I appreciate his want to return, but he just needs to hang it up. He is sporting a 47 wRC+ on the season, and probably leads the league in gif-able outfield plays.
Obviously, the team did not feel the same way. I do not want this to be about Wedge’s incompetence, but part of it is. His inability to judge a player’s performance is baffling-ly bad for someone in his position. He sits Brendan Ryan in favor of Robert Andino because of Ryan’s inability to hit, but continues to run out the insta-out/insta-error combo that is Raul Ibanez on a regular basis. Is Carlos Peguero much better? Probably not. But he is younger, has more power, and plays at least watchable defense. But does he have the clubhouse leadership, or Hawk Harrelson’s TWTW? (Hint: That was sarcasm.)
So there you go. Saunders up, Peguero down. The team should surely improve with Michael’s presence, both at the top of the lineup, and in the outfield. Do you think Peguero was the right choice?