The Mariners have to be at least somewhat pleased that they were able to split the series with a Tigers team that, let’s face it, is just better than the Mariners. Winning two games against that offense and a rotation of Miller-Bonderman-Rogers-Verlander is a tall order, and the M’s were able to keep themselves from taking a step backward against a good team. For most teams, the path the playoffs is playing .500 ball against contenders and beating the tar out of the pretenders, so there’s nothing wrong with splitting a series with a team that has a claim as the best in baseball.
With that positive disclaimer out of the way – the M’s got outplayed in every possible way this weekend and should count themselves very fortunate that they won a pair of games. As a team, they hit .231/.286/.358, but thanks to the fact that they got a lot of timely hits, they were able to put up 19 runs in four games. A .644 OPS does not often translate to 4.75 runs per game. On the flip side, the Tigers hit .297/.370/.483 but scored just 23 runs, significantly less than you’d expect from an .853 OPS. Pretty much all the clutch plays went in favor of the M’s, and well, that’s not a recipe for success.
Essentially, the M’s won two close games because they hit well at crucial times, Bruce Froemming blew a call, and the bullpen was unhittable. But in the other two games, the team didn’t really stand much of a chance, getting outclassed by a better opponent right out of the gates. The Mariners can look at this weekend as a success in the standings, no doubt, but if they were looking at this series as a litmus test for how well the team currently stacks up to the cream of the American League crop, well, there are reasons to worry. The Tigers were, without a doubt, the best team on the field this weekend. This roster, as currently composed, will be a significant underdog in any playoff series it might play.
One of the big stars of the series for the Tigers was center fielder Curtis Granderson, who torched Seattle pitchers on the way to an 8 for 16 series with two doubles, a triple, and a home run. Every time I turned around, Granderson was drilling a fastball into the alley and heading for extra bases. And, you know, he reminded me of someone. When I looked up the numbers that reflect a particular skillset, well, take a look for yourself:
Center Field BB% K% LD% BABIP ISO Granderson 7.5% 22.6% 23.0% 0.358 0.273 Adam Jones 7.3% 22.6% 22.0% 0.357 0.283
When we talk about promoting Adam Jones, one of the initial reactions from the skeptics is that he strikes out too much, and his current numbers suggest that his current skillset won’t translate well to the major leagues. Curtis Granderson disagrees. They have, essentially, almost identical skillsets. Think the Tigers should option Granderson to Toledo to work on his plate discipline?
Now, granted, we can’t just take Jones’ numbers against PCL pitchers and stick them in a major league line-up and expect identical performance. But the idea that Jones’ lack of walks and relatively high number of strikeouts expose some hidden flaw that will cause him to flail away helplessly at major league pitchers is just a myth. Granderson made a smooth transition from Triple-A to the majors two years ago, and he wasn’t as good a player then as Jones is now.
When you watched this series, which player did you think was making a bigger contribution to the Tigers – Curtis Granderson or Sean Casey? Which hitter were you afraid of? If the Tigers had to choose between Casey and Granderson, who do you think they’d pick?
Are we belaboring the point? Probably. But you know, this is a point that needs to be made – the Mariners fourth best position player is currently in Triple-A while the team fights for a playoff spot. That’s absurd, and it requires attention.