20 Percent Grades – The Offense
With yesterday’s win, the Mariners passed the 20% mark of the season, as they have now played just over 1/5th of the 2007 season. And they passed that mark over .500 while playing the tough part of their schedule and only getting two starts from Felix Hernandez. Looking at the big picture, you have to take the results so far and be pretty happy. The team lost the guy it could least afford to lose and were able to keep their heads above water while waiting for him to return. Felix returns tomorrow, the schedule over the next month is significantly easier than the past month, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever have to see Jeff Weaver pitch again, so hope abounds in Seattle.
Since we’re at the 20 percent mile marker and it’s an off day (don’t get too used to these), I figure its time for an early season report card. Let’s see who has been helping the team the most through the first stretch of the year. Here’s the position players – we’ll do the pitching in another post later today.
Kenji Johjima, Catcher – Grade: A
He’s been the early season power source, leading the team in slugging percentage and providing offense from the catcher spot. He has the highest OPS on the club despite still being allergic to walks. His defense still isn’t great, but the runs he generates with his bat more than make up for it.
Richie Sexson, First Base – Grade: F
There are plenty of reasons to expect him to improve as the season goes on, but no matter how you slice it, 6 weeks of a first baseman hitting .183/.282/.391 while playing bad defense is a drag on the team. He still leads all the other hitters in walks, and he won’t keep hitting balls right at guys all year, but he’s been a bad baseball player so far.
Jose Lopez, Second Base – Grade: C
While finding some of his power stroke from last year’s first half, Lopez hasn’t shown any real growth this year. He still doesn’t walk, he’s not driving the ball with consistency, and he doesn’t have the bat control to be a high enough average hitter to make that package work really well. On the plus side, his defense has been solid. There’s room for more with Lopez, and the M’s should hope that he starts to take some steps forward sooner rather than later.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Shortstop – Grade: D
Betancourt’s taken a step back across the board so far. While he still possesses well above average range, he’s made too many misplays on balls that should be easy outs, and if he’s not playing like an elite defender, he’s not helping the team. He’s still just an okay hitter whose value is tied directly to his defensive performance, and so far, it hasn’t been good enough. He’s still a valuable piece going forward, and I’m not too worried about the error rate staying this high, but he hasn’t been helping the team this year.
Adrian Beltre, Third Base – Grade: C
Beltre’s off to his usual slow start, but unlike the Bad Beltre we’ve seen in years past, this one isn’t totally lost. He’s hitting for power and walking occassionally, but he just hasn’t hit enough singles yet. Offensively, there’s not a huge difference between what Beltre and Sexson have given the Mariners, but Beltre’s abilities to play a pretty terrific defensive third base still make him a far more valuable player.
Raul Ibanez, Left Field – Grade: F
This is the Raul Ibanez we all thought we were getting several years ago – the guy with the nice swing who hits for a high enough average but doesn’t walk much and has no power. He’s hitting .275, but only 8 of his 36 hits have gone for extra bases, including just one home run. When this guy is your left-handed power, you’re in trouble. He also continues to deteriorate defensively, and watching him chase balls in the alley is now nothing short of painful. Let’s hope for a rebound, but honestly, he looks pretty much done as a useful player.
Ichiro Suzuki, Center Field – Grade: B
If I told you Ichiro was hitting .286, you’d probably assume that he was in one of his offensive funks and was hurting the club. But, he’s actually not. His secondary skills have made up for the lower than usual batting average, as he’s second on the team in walks and third on the team in extra base hits. He’s got the third highest OPS on the team while playing a quality defensive center field, and that continues to make him a highly valuable player. He’s gotta start running more, though.
Jose Guillen, Right Field – Grade: A
Here’s something you probably don’t know – Jose Guillen has been the third best right fielder in the American League this year. Vlad and Ordonez are off to MVP quality starts, but Guillen’s the next best guy through the first chunk of the season. His shoulder is fine, he’s driving the ball with consistency, and he’s drawing more walks than usual while also leading the league in HBP. An .830 OPS out of anyone in Safeco is valuable, but when it’s a guy who was picked up as a reclamation project on a one year deal – well, this couldn’t have gone any better so far. He’s right behind Johjima and Ichiro in the team MVP race.
Jose Vidro, Designated Hitter – Grade: D
There are nine DH’s that have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Jose Vidro ranks 9th in OPS among those hitters. Yes, he’s hitting .307, but he has a total of five extra base hits, has drawn just 8 walks, and has thrown in 7 double plays to boot. Toss in the fact that his batting average is being driven by a team high seven infield hits, and Vidro doesn’t exactly look like he’s got a lot left to offer. The Mariners might be happy with the production they’re getting from Jose Vidro, but that doesn’t mean we should be.
Bloomquist, Broussard, Burke, and Ellison, Bench – Grade: B
This is basically all Jamie Burke, who has been a revelation compared to the putridity Rene Rivera offered last season. Willie’s been his usual terrible self, Broussard’s been solid in very limited playing time, and Ellison is simply around because he gives the illusion of a more versatile bench.
Overall Offense – Grade: C
Sexson and Beltre need to start turning some of those outs into singles while maintaining their power and walk rates, and it would help if Lopez/Betancourt would stop getting themselves out so often. But Johjima and Guillen have made up for most of the shortcomings, and the offense hasn’t been as big a problem as it could have been.