C’s Get Degrees: Mariners Lineup First Half Report Card

Who needs plate discipline with a winning smile like that?

Who needs plate discipline with a winning smile like that?

Mike Zunino (B) The young catcher has been invaluable behind the dish for the Mariners as his stellar defense and pitch framing have been a major reason for Seattle’s staff success. At the plate Zunino shows above-average pop (13 HR) but his abysmal pitch recognition (11 BB/97) needs quite a bit of fine tuning.

Kyle Seager (A) After struggling out of the gate Seager has been nothing short of sensational over the past three months, launching himself into the upper echelon of American League players. He is currently third in the A.L. in WAR (trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson) and is on pace for career highs in nearly every statistical category. Get that man a long-term contract!

Robinson Cano (A) The 240-million-dollar man has been as good as advertised in his first half season with Seattle. Despite a slight drop in power numbers there’s little to complain about with a slash line of .334/.393/.462. His presence in the lineup seems to have a positive effect on the rest of Seattle’s hitters and he’s no slouch on the defensive side either. Will he finally break the curse of Mariners’ free agent signings?

Brad Miller (C-) Miller had a forgettable April (.173) and even worse May (.136) before turning in a solid June (.298) at the plate. He has struggled at times defensively but the numbers show him to be above-average at short despite some costly errors. The Mariners showed unwavering faith in Miller throughout his slump and he looks to be on the verge of repaying their trust in him.

Justin Smoak (D) The sun might be just about ready to set on the Justin Smoak era in Seattle as the first baseman continues to show little of the promise that once made him a top 10 prospect in baseball. Although he still flashes some pop at the plate, Smoak’s ongoing lack of ability to make consistent solid contact grade him out as a below average corner infielder. It’s a make or break second half for the one-time first round pick.

Willy Bloomquist (C) Willy Ballgame has done a little of everything for the Mariners this season in perfectly mediocre fashion. Although his .269 average in 119 AB is almost entirely hollow (just 6 XBH and 3 BB) WFB’s ability to play multiple positions has been crucial to a team with major roster construction issues.

The Condor's inability to stay off the D.L. has put a damper on the M's playoff hopes.

The Condor’s inability to stay off the D.L. has put a damper on the M’s playoff hopes.

Michael Saunders (B-) The Condor was quietly putting together the best season of his career (2.0 WAR in 65 games) before shoulder inflammation and serious oblique injury landed him on the disabled list. Saunders was Seattle’s third best hitter before the injury but his inability to stay healthy has thrown a major wrench into the M’s lineup and outfield defense. Fans hope he’s not becoming Franklin Gutierrez 2.0.

Stefen Romero (D) Romero crushed the ball in Spring Training but couldn’t carry that success into the regular season as he slashed just .196/.236/.324 in 148 AB with a ghastly 4 BB/40 K ratio. Still just 25-years-old, he has a chance to be a part of Seattle’s future with improvement in plate discipline and in the field, but he shouldn’t play a major role in 2014.

James Jones (C+) The speedy outfielder has been a pleasant surprise since being called up to replace the struggling Almonte. A spark plug atop the order, Jones has tallied 17 stolen bases while being caught just once. The left-hander makes consistent contact but will need to show more patience at the plate (just 11 BB in 245 AB) to become a long term fixture in the leadoff spot.

Abraham Almonte (F) Almonte got off to a hot start but quickly cooled down once the league’s pitchers figured him out. The switch-hitting rookie was unable to make any adjustments (40 K’s in 106 AB) leaving him as dead weight atop the lineup for the better part of a month. Almonte also struggled defensively in centerfield leaving many wondering why he stuck around as long as he did.

Dustin Ackley (D-) The former #2 overall pick in the 2009 draft has the third most at-bats on the Mariners this season with just 4 HR, 3 SB and a -0.5 OWAR to show for it. His defense in left has improved to the point where he is at least average at the position (despite one the worst arms in the game) but the player who was supposed to be able to roll out of bed and hit is posting an anemic .616 OPS for the year. It might be time to pull the plug.

Endy Chavez (C-) Chavez probably shouldn’t be in the majors right now, and he certainly shouldn’t be hitting leadoff, but the gritty veteran hasn’t been a complete disaster filling in for Ackley and Saunders. The 36-year-old has struck out just 12 times in 127 AB but his unwillingness to draw a walk and lack of extra-base pop make him unsuited for anything more than a 4th or 5th outfielder. If he gets significant playing time in the second half, the M’s are in trouble.

Logan Morrison (C) LoMo has been adequate at first base since his return from the disabled list, but it’s not tough to look good when you’re replacing Justin Smoak. He’s playing better than his .230 average suggests (due in part to a .252 BABIP) and a strong second half may allow the former top prospect to carve out a long-term role as the Mariners’ first baseman.

Corey Hart (D+) The Mariners were hoping they got the player who averaged 24 HR between 2007 and 2012 when they signed Hart in the offseason, but the ageing slugger has shown a considerable amount of rust after missing 2013 to  knee surgery. Since he can’t play the field anymore Hart is strictly a designated hitter so he had better start hitting before he’s designated (for assignment that is).

 

H to the Izzo…V to the izz-A, Robinson Canoizzo is Coming to the Emerald City: Mariners Land Star 2B In Stunning Coup

“If you’re having run scoring problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a power hitting second baseman ain’t one.” – Jay Z  Jack Z

Seattle’s embattled general manager will have to drop more than just one fat beat to save his job and bring the Mariners back from the brink of irrelevance, but if Robinson Cano’s 10 year/$240 million dollar contract is any indication, Jack Z is just beginning to dust off the rhymes.

Let’s be clear about one thing — the contract is too much money for too long, but what choice did the Mariners have? Free agents aren’t going to come to Seattle for a chance to win a championship (not yet at least) or to improve their offensive numbers. Until the Mariners reverse 12 years of mediocrity, they’ll only come for the money.

Have the Mariners found their Holy Grail?

Have the Mariners found their Holy Grail?

This contract will probably look terrible in 5-6 years (although inflation will help offset this to a small degree) but signing Cano was about making the Mariners relevant NOW without worrying about what it would do to the franchise in the coming years. The only way Seattle made headlines the past few seasons was for utter chaos in its front office, and of course, that huge ass TV in centerfield. The time was right (as was the payroll) to make a splash, and in a limited free agent market, Cano was in a class by himself.

Power hitting second baseman who hold their own defensively don’t grow on trees (at least not in the northern hemisphere) and though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Cano is fresh off a 7.6 WAR season that included a triple slash of .314/.383/.516 (he would have led the 2013 Mariners in nearly every offensive category – shocking I know). In the last five seasons he’s never posted an OPS below .871, never failed to crack the 20 HR mark, and never played in less than 159 games — that’s consistency Seattle has been looking for since Russ Davis Edgar Martinez left town.

Robinson Cano is a superstar, and the Mariners didn’t have to give away any prospects to acquire him (although the superfluous Dustin Ackley or Nick Franklin may be on their way out). It’s obviously risky putting so many eggs ($$$) in one basket, but it’s better than piddling away your payroll on a bunch of Michael Morses and Jason Bays. There’s still plenty of work to be done with the roster if Seattle hopes to make a serious run at the postseason, but they have more cash to spend and three studs (Cano, Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager) along with a bevy of potential stars (Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, D.J. Peterson, etc.) to build around.

There’s something in the air in Seattle and it’s not rain…it’s excitement about the Mariners.

Better grab an umbrella…ella…ella…eh…eh.

Death from Above – Bird with a Gun – Condor Cannon

Once, Twice, Three Times a Mariner: Seattle Does the Most Seattle Thing Possible, Signs Raul Ibanez. Again.

Unless Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn't add up.

Unless Raul Ibanez returns to catching, this deal just doesn’t add up.

So the Mariners missed out on Josh Hamilton? No problem, we got Jason Bay! Nick Swisher chose to sign with Cleveland over Seattle? Big deal! Welcome back Raul Ibanez!

I keep hearing that Jack Zduriencik has a plan. At what point does it include building a winning team?

Seattle isn’t going to make the playoffs in 2013; I think everyone agrees on that. The team appears to be committed to building through the draft and letting young players get at-bats, so why are they dishing out $2.75 million to a 40-year-old on his last legs?

Is it the mythical, unquantifiable quality of leadership? I can’t think of any other reason to bring in another player to add to the logjam at 1B/DH/OF. Didn’t we just do that with Kendrys Morales? Is the front office admitting that the deals that brought in Casper Wells, Mike Carp, and Eric Thames (players who will lose at-bats or a roster spot to Ibanez) were failures?

Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of Raul, and think he can still contribute as a bat off the bench, but he’s not what the Mariners need right now. Ibanez  hit .208 with a .365 slugging percentage (four points below Seattle’s team average last season) away from Yankee Stadium in 2012, and the last time he played full-time in the outfield he was worth negative 23 runs. That’s not just bad, that’s cover-your-eyes bad.

Could the Mariners hide his Benny Hill act in the outfield by keeping the majority of his at-bats at DH? Sure, but then better hitters like Morales, John Jaso, and Jesus Montero would be forced to the bench, and on days when Ibanez is in the outfield, Michael Saunders or Wells would lose playing time – how exactly does that help their development?

The Mariners don’t need leadership right now, they need talent. Ibanez doesn’t make Seattle any better in 2013, and the belief that his veteran presence will make the M’s young hitters better in coming years is ludicrous. Is Raul going to make Montero stop swinging at sliders in the dirt, or is Montero going to figure that out on his own with (gasp!) playing time? Seattle wants its young players to improve? Hire a good coach; don’t send them to the bench so a star of bygone days can parade in front of an apathetic fan base.

I used to joke that the Mariners would finish fifth in the A.L. West. Now, with Houston in the division and a front office committed to ineptitude, it seems like a very real possibility…

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners...laughs.

At least Raul can provide something for the Mariners…laughs.

CLICK PICTURE TO ENJOY RAUL IN THE OUTFIELD

 

Bay-Watch: Mariners Sign Free-Agent Outfielder, Mets Castoff

Another Canadian outfielder? I dunno know about this...

Two Canadians in the same outfield? What, did Matt Stairs not pick up the phone?

After being linked to nearly every big name bat on the market (Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Raul Mondesi Jr, Justin Upton, etc.), the Mariners left the Winter Meetings instead with a player that the New York Mets paid to go away — let that sink in for a moment. Then drink copious amounts of liquor and try to understand Seattle’s thought process. Afterwards, dial 9-1-1 to seek treatment for alcohol poisoning.

No, Jason Bay isn’t the worst player in baseball, but he also isn’t close to the player who hit 36 home runs for Boston in 2009. Bay’s averaged has dropped every year since 2008, bottoming out at .165 in 194 at-bats for the Mets last season (a year in which he was paid $16,000,000 to produce -1.3 WAR). There’s a difference between a reclamation project and a reanimation project, and I’m not sure even Dr. Frankenstein could shock life make into Bay’s cadaverous career arc.

The move doesn’t come with a lot of risk ($1 million + incentives) but neither does eating at Applebee’s and I’m not lining up to try their newest sizzlin’ skillet. Seattle already has a younger version of Bay on the roster in the form of Casper Wells, so Bay’s presence is redudant unless veteran leadership is the only thing missing from a World Series roster. Here’s a hint, it isn’t.

It’s not an awful move, it’s just such a Mariners’ move. We’ve been down the washed up player looking for a change of scenery route before and it hasn’t worked out. Eric Wedge has a track record of giving more at-bats to players with “experience” (happy trails Miguel Olivo) so keeping Bay on the roster may steal playing time away from prospects who could make a difference when the M’s are ready to contend. What’s the upside?

Attendance is dwindling, Seattle hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, Ichiro is gone, and this is the answer?

We don’t ask for much as Mariners fans, but we deserve better than Jason Bay.

Your move Jack Zduriencik.

The Condor Report: July 30th–August 5th

Card of the Week: 2007 Bowman’s Best Blue Refractor RC #/99

Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of July 30th through August 5th:

AB: 19

Hits: 5

AVG: .263

Runs: 4

Doubles/Triples: 3/0

Home Runs: 0

RBI: 1

SB: 0

BB/K: 0/4

What Went Wrong? Saunders used to draw walks on the regular. Now? Not so much. That has to change.

What Went Right? The Condor had three more doubles last week (including this rocket off southpaw Ricky Romero) and has a shot to reach 40 on the season. If he can convert more of those into home runs next year…watch out!

The Condor Report: July 16th–July 22nd

Card of the Week: 2011 Topps Factory Set Exclusive #/245

Michael “The Condor” Saunders stats for the week of July 16th through July 22nd:

AB: 23

Hits: 7

AVG: .304

Runs: 2

Doubles/Triples: 1/0

Home Runs: 1

RBI: 5

SB: 1

BB/K: 1/7

What Went Wrong? Saunders got a little “K” happy, striking out seven times in the week. He’s on pace for 134 punch outs and that will need to change in order for his average to climb above .250-.260.

What Went Right? The Condor had a productive week including this monster homer to dead-center in Kansas City and a two-run single against Tampa Bay that proved to be the difference in the Mariners 2-1 win. Notice anything about those two highlights? Saunders didn’t pull either of those pitches, and his ability to go to centerfield and the opposite way is a big reason for his breakout season.