Mike Fontenot

Dave · May 26, 2009 at 11:43 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Over the last week or so, the trade rumors have focused on Yuniesky Betancourt, but if the Mariners are going to fix their overly RH line-up problem, making a move at second base is probably a more realistic scenario. It’s a lot harder to find a shortstop who can hit from the left side than it is to find a second baseman who can do the same, after all. In fact, there’s a left-handed second baseman who could potentially be had at the moment who I would strongly suggest the Mariners pursue.

His name is Mike Fontenot. You might look at his .208/.299/.368 performance this season and say “great, just what this team needs, another guy who isn’t hitting”, but I’d suggest you look beyond his overall line. Here are his performances in the core skill categories from last year and this year.

2008/2009

BB%: 12.3%, 11.3%
K%: 21.0%, 21.6%
ISO: .210, .160

His walk and strikeout rates are essentially unchaged, and while his power has taken a step back, it’s still well above average. His poor performance is driven entirely by a swing from a .355 batting average on balls in play last year to a .226 mark this year. BABIP isn’t as luck driven for hitters as it is for pitchers, but it is extremely inconsistent, especially in small samples. Fontenot wasn’t going to sustain last year’s mark, but he also isn’t going to keep hitting balls right at fielders like he is currently. If you believe his true talent BABIP is around .300 (like I do), then he would project to hit something like .260/.340/.420 over the rest of the season.

Not only would that performance make him one of the team’s better hitters, but he’s also an absolutely perfect fit for this team and Safeco Field. The M’s badly need a hitter or three who can hit right-handed pitching, and Fontenot excels against RHPs (career .283/.368/.460 mark against them). Most of his power lies in pulling the ball to right field, as well – check out his HR location patterns for last year, via Hit Tracker Online.

fontenot_mike_2008_scatter

Talk about a guy who could take advantage of Safeco’s short porch down the right field line, and wouldn’t be nearly as affected by the cavernous left-center field area. You could actually expect Safeco to help Fontenot, not hurt him, unlike what it currently does to most of the roster.

He wouldn’t just improve the club’s offense, either. Unlike our current second baseman, Fontenot can actually play defense. In 1100 major league innings at second base, he’s posted a UZR of +9.9, which rates out as +14 runs per 150 games. It’s a small sample of data, so we’d have to regress our expectations back more towards something like a +5 defender going forward, but +5 defense at second base would be a significant upgrade over what we’re getting from Lopez right now. Toss in an easy opportunity to get Cedeno some at-bats against LHPs, and the team would be able to take a solid step forward on both sides of the field by acquiring Fontenot.

Ideally, you’d be able to convince the Cubs to swap Fontenot for Lopez, who would give them a “proven” second baseman who can play everyday, something they’re not convinced of when it comes to Fontenot. However, even if they aren’t big Lopez fans, the M’s would be wise to try to work out a deal for Fontenot before his luck starts to turn and the Cubbies decide to hang onto their 28-year-old left-handed infielder with power and defensive skills. Get creative if you have to – involve a third team that might want Lopez (the Minnesota Twins, for instance) and move some players around to make it work for everyone.

Fontenot is exactly the kind of player the M’s should be trying to acquire right now. He helps the team both now and in the future, fitting the player type the roster is badly lacking and giving them an answer at second base for 2010 and beyond.

Mike Fontenot please. Make it happen, Jack.

Comments

37 Responses to “Mike Fontenot”

  1. bookbook on May 26th, 2009 11:58 am

    I love posts like this. Sure, they’re some version of super-high-level rosterbation. Yet, this is the phenomenal value-added that very good sabr-analysts like you, Dave and Derek, provide that make this site special.

    Great job.

    PS When are the M’s going to wise up and hire you both to “assist-and-advise” the General Manager’s office?

  2. The Ancient Mariner on May 26th, 2009 11:58 am

    Hadn’t thought about him, but Fontenot would be a great buy-low candidate. Man, I hope Zduriencik starts making some moves soon.

  3. The Ancient Mariner on May 26th, 2009 12:00 pm

    bookbook, I think our new FO has enough good folks doing what Dave and Derek could do for them, and not enough doing what they’re already doing: namely, making these sorts of arguments out in the public domain for the education of the fanbase.

  4. jvalentine on May 26th, 2009 12:09 pm

    Dave –

    Nice post. Clearly he would be a good fit. However, does front office want to stay away from Fontenot if he wasn’t chosen over Cedeno when Z & Co. owned Hendry with the Heilman trade? Or was Fontenot just untouchable at that time coming off of his .305/.395/.514 season?

  5. Paul B on May 26th, 2009 12:09 pm

    Fontenot has actually played more games at third this year than at second.

    I haven’t followed the Cubs, but the above fact sort of indicates to me that they may need a thirdbaseman as well as a secondbaseman.

    If only they had a couple of good prospects, maybe the M’s could get Fontenot and prospects for Lopez and Beltre.

  6. Dave on May 26th, 2009 12:20 pm

    When are the M’s going to wise up and hire you both to “assist-and-advise” the General Manager’s office?

    They’d be paying us for what we already do for free. Seems like the opposite of wise to me.

    However, does front office want to stay away from Fontenot if he wasn’t chosen over Cedeno when Z & Co. owned Hendry with the Heilman trade?

    Fontenot entered the year as the Cubs starting second baseman. He wasn’t available.

    I haven’t followed the Cubs, but the above fact sort of indicates to me that they may need a thirdbaseman as well as a secondbaseman.

    Aramis Ramirez is hurt. He’ll be back in a couple of months. They’re not going to want to rent Beltre as a injury fill-in.

  7. twitchytsj on May 26th, 2009 12:21 pm

    Fontenot has been playing 3B cause Ramirez is on the d/l. If he was healthy, Fontenot would be the full time 2B. They could use a 3B, but I don’t think they’d need Beltre because Ramirez would need a spot once he’s healthy.

    He’s a hell of a player though. Great buy low candidate.

  8. TomTuttle on May 26th, 2009 12:28 pm

    Interesting. . .

    I had never even thought of Fontenot’s name.

    You know, if the Cubs don’t restart trade talks for Peavy, they’d be PERFECT to talk to about Bedard considering that they haven’t won the whole thing in 100+ years.

    I would imagine that the Cubbies are desperate enough to win THIS year that you could eek out one or two extra players in a trade that you wouldn’t get otherwise for a player in Bedard’s situation when draft picks are considered for 2 month rent-a-players.

  9. ManifestDestiny on May 26th, 2009 12:43 pm

    Fontenot is getting bashed pretty good in the local media and on the radio coverage of the Cubs, sounds like their patience is waning. Could be a good time to trade.

    Also, as far as possible middle infield help goes, would going after Jason Donald of the Phillies make sense, as a good centerpiece for a Bedard trade?

  10. JerBear on May 26th, 2009 12:46 pm

    I honestly hadn’t considered Fontenot either…

    But I like it! Make it happen, Z!

  11. Logger on May 26th, 2009 12:51 pm

    Realistically, do you these types of posts get all the way to Z? If so, awesome.

  12. Dave on May 26th, 2009 1:00 pm

    The M’s front office is well aware of what gets posted on the blog.

  13. JI on May 26th, 2009 1:08 pm

    I still am surprised the Cubs traded DeRosa given all the injury concerns on their roster.

  14. GarForever on May 26th, 2009 1:08 pm

    Dave –

    Great post. As an M’s fan living in the Chicago area, I would also add that Fontenot provides something beyond the core baseball skills you cite, namely he demonstrates real fire AND a high baseball IQ when he’s in the game. I know I will run afoul of the Lou fanclub here, but part of the reason Fontenot would probably be available and hasn’t gotten the playing time this year is that Piniella famously ignores stats when it suits him, and I doubt cares much about Fontenot’s anomalously low BABIP so far this year. For whatever reason, Fontenot seems to have fallen in the young Ibanez/Podsednik category for Piniella. He would probably flourish for Seattle.

  15. horatiosanzserif on May 26th, 2009 1:27 pm

    I agree that this would be a great trade, despite Fontenot’s struggles of late. But — and correct me if I’m wrong — isn’t the primary, non-$ reason the Cubs traded DeRosa was to “get more lefthanded” in the everyday lineup?

    From Piniella, this spring:

    “Our club won 97 ballgames last year and played awfully well. But when you get into the playoffs and guys can pitch, they can throw breaking balls when they’re behind in the count. They can pitch to the outside part of the plate. They get comfortable. We played the Dodgers last year, and we didn’t see one pitch by a lefty. Nothing. That says a lot.”

    From Derrek Lee, same article:

    “We’ve been so right-handed that when a pitcher gets in a groove, he can pitch to one side of the plate and really not have to mix it up. Guys start working the outside corner and throwing that slider off the plate, and they never have to go to a different pitch to get a lefty out. I’m not a pitcher, but I would think it would be a little easier that way.”

    In other words, a Fontenot-type player would be great for the M’s. But it doesn’t appear Fontenot is available unless a similar lefty able to sub at 3B can be had in return.

  16. joser on May 26th, 2009 1:33 pm

    Fontenot hadn’t crossed my mind either. (“Grudzielanek” had, but only because the M’s are accumulating a roster of unspellables; and of course he’s a rightie anyway.)

    I was kind of surprised to read that Fontenot’s power is well above average, but I looked at Fangraphs and sure enough, only four AL 2Bs this year have more than .160 ISO (Roberts, Hill, Cano, and Kinsler) and only two of those are over .200 (and none of the four walk more than he does); if you widen it to all of baseball, there are eleven over .160 and six over .200 (though really only ten and five since Weeks is now out for the year). Lopez, not surprisingly, is bringing up the rear of that parade — his .090 puts him only slightly in front of Placido Polanco’s AL-worst .093. But Lopez doesn’t need power when he hits an occasional clutch single, right?

    Power is good; left-handed power perfectly-suited to Safeco is even better. Add quality defense? I’m sold.

    The Mets need a 1B with Delgado out, and they might not be feeling too ripped off by the Putz deal to consider another 3-way. After all, the M’s seem to have a glut of 1Bs at the moment (even though it would feel like robbing Peter to pay Paul if you sent off Branyan, there’s at least one LH bat in Tacoma that could come up immediately). I mean, the Mets were running an outfielder (Jeremy Reed) out at 1B while playing an infielder (Daniel Murphy) in left, so who knows what will seem reasonable to them?

    You know, if the Cubs don’t restart trade talks for Peavy, they’d be PERFECT to talk to about Bedard considering that they haven’t won the whole thing in 100+ years.

    So they can corner the market on fragile Canadian starters? I suppose if they could somehow ensure that only one was on the DL at any given time, they might end up with one full-time ace out of that situation. But considering they didn’t give up a huge haul for Harden, and their farm is pretty bare as it is, I think you could probably get more return for Bedard from somebody else. (Maybe they can pry a package including J.P. Arencibia from the Jays…)

  17. eponymous coward on May 26th, 2009 1:42 pm

    I think I am going to surprise Dave and endorse this. I have a higher opinion of Lopez than he does, but even given that, he’s not a great match for this team because of his skill set (we have too many RHB impatient pull hitters) and Safeco (which sucks for RHB impatient pull hitters), and at some point, if you have to play musical chairs with the roster in order to strengthen the weak spots, someone is going to be left standing. Might as well be Lopez to start with.

  18. joser on May 26th, 2009 1:42 pm

    But it doesn’t appear Fontenot is available unless a similar lefty able to sub at 3B can be had in return.

    Well, the Phillies like ex-Ms; maybe Zduriencik can rig a three-way to bust Dobbs loose for Lou. (Yes, I’m mostly kidding, but a 3-way deal is always possible).

    If Lou has soured on Fontenot, a different LH player may be exactly what he wants.

  19. eponymous coward on May 26th, 2009 1:47 pm

    Also:

    They’d be paying us for what we already do for free. Seems like the opposite of wise to me.

    No, they’d be paying you for your skills and exclusive attention focusing on THEIR problems to the exclusion of dealing with dumb commenters like yours truly, balky servers, etc.. and having your research provided to them on a confidential basis. That doesn’t strike me as unwise at all- though if their own sabremetric research would make you superfluous, I could see why it wouldn’t be necessary.

  20. Adam S on May 26th, 2009 2:01 pm

    Good analysis, but doesn’t any hope of a trade hinge on this:

    …Lopez, who would give them a “proven” second baseman who can play everyday, something they’re not convinced of when it comes to Fontenot.

    This sounds like the kind of speculation you often criticize posters for — let’s trade our second baseman who can’t field, isn’t hitting, and appears to have peaked for another team’s much better player who’s off to a slow start and maybe they’ll give away.

  21. eponymous coward on May 26th, 2009 2:31 pm

    Fontenot has some fairly extreme career splits- this may be in part because of Small Sample Size, or it may be a case of “well, he shouldn’t play against LHP, so we’re not gonna”. That reduces his value as an everyday player (you now need to bench Fontenot against a lefty and carry an RHB 2B who isn’t a defensive or offensive disaster on the roster). Lopez does not have those kinds of splits and as such, increases your roster flexibility.

    Lopez is several years younger than Fontenot and has 2 years under his belt at ages 23 and 25 where he was a 2+ WAR player as a full time player, as well as not being a defensive disaster. A team may be willing to take a chance that he moves up a notch to a 2.5-3 WAR everyday player in a different organization/different ballpark, or that he will bounce back to being a 2 WAR player for the rest of the year. It’s sort of the classic “change of scenery” we’ve seen happen with guys like Jose and Carlos Guillen, where they have long bouts of not being particularly impressive, while perfectly OK as a regular (Carlos) or being downright awful (Jose), and then after they leave an organization, they take a quantum leap where some of the talent they flashed earlier really starts shining.

    I’m not saying it’s a slam dunk and perhaps Jose Lopez is a worse player than Willie Bloomquist and will wash out presently… but I’d sure explore a trade, and it’s not like Zdurencik hasn’t managed to trade a player who was well off his peak performance (JJ) for interesting goodies for a team that thought there was some bounceback.

  22. NorthofWrigleyField on May 26th, 2009 2:40 pm

    They’d be paying us for what we already do for free. Seems like the opposite of wise to me.

    BUZZ!!! Wrong, my friend! They’re actually paying a whole mess of people to ignore some of the smart things you have to say and luck into some of the good ideas you’ve been saying here for years. Hiring you would come with an organizational mandate to listen to you… that’s why it would be wise to actually pay you to do this.

    This however is an incredibly stupid idea… coming from a Cubs fan. They already traded a second baseman superior to Lopez to open up a spot for Fontenot… or “Little Babe Ruth” as we like to call him.

    I know you would like to just assume your team can just get whatever they want and give up squat to get them (i.e. the Heilman trade), but I would appreciate you proposing ideas that didn’t make me want to jump off a bridge at the mere thought my team might actually do it… and take you down with me.

  23. bellacaramella on May 26th, 2009 2:43 pm

    This sounds like the kind of speculation you often criticize posters for — let’s trade our second baseman who can’t field, isn’t hitting, and appears to have peaked for another team’s much better player who’s off to a slow start and maybe they’ll give away.

    Do you really think Fontenot is all that? He flails against LH pitching (to the point where he should be a platoon player) and doesn’t make enough contact. From my vantage point on the sofa, he’s even-up with Lopez in terms of fan frustration.

    I’d take Fontenot if there were some sweetener in the deal: Lopez/Bedard (can you imagine Bedard on a Lou Piniella team?) for Fontenot/Ryan Flaherty. Maybe Bedard can bring more than Ryan Flaherty. I don’t know.

    I do like Dave’s Alexi Casilla idea, though… Let’s pick up torches and pitchforks for that deal.

  24. cdowley on May 26th, 2009 2:48 pm

    Fontenot is a guy I’ve liked for several years, but that has more to do with the fact that I love tough, scrappy middle infielders with no fear than anything statistical or concrete. Knowing his statistical solidarity only reinforces the fact that I like him.

    That said, I’m not sure the Cubs would part with him, except maybe in a package that brought them another high-shelf starter. Lopez might tempt them, but his struggles have been well-documented of late.

  25. Mike Honcho on May 26th, 2009 3:08 pm

    If you’ve got a guy with extreme splits, go with the LH bat. And his defense is what is really nice. He’s a good player.

  26. Mike Honcho on May 26th, 2009 3:09 pm

    Edit – if you’ve got TWO guys with extreme splits…

  27. qwerty on May 26th, 2009 3:56 pm

    Fontenot sounds perfect.
    While we’re at it, let’s go after Hoffpauir (3rd team/another player?) or even get Lou to throw in Fuld.

  28. wabbles on May 26th, 2009 4:01 pm

    PS When are the M’s going to wise up and hire you both to “assist-and-advise” the General Manager’s office?
    Intriguing. But it makes so much sense for us I still don’t see how we talk the Cubs into it.

    And regarding bookbook’s comment:

    As Rockefeller once told a guy seeking seed money for a now well-established organization that is based upon donations. “I think what you have here is something special. Money would just ruin it.” And then a group of men worth about $1 billion (about the size of the federal budget at the time) got up and walked out of the room.

    Dave and Derek wouldn’t be as effective on the M’s payroll. Sorry, guys. :-)

  29. Tuomas on May 26th, 2009 4:12 pm

    Mike Fontenot will be guest-starring on tonight’s “My Boys” on TBS. LINK

  30. bilbo27 on May 26th, 2009 4:12 pm

    An alternate option might be some sort of deal with the Rays. Aki is out for the season and given they surely consider themselves in the playoff hunt, they might be hesitant to give the job to someone who’s maybe close to the majors and talented, but also unproven.

    So do the Rays have any talented lefty middle infielder prospect we could swap for Lopez? Seems like Lopez’s numbers would also do better (at least offensively, power especially) in Tropicana Field as well. He might be able to hit 20-25 home runs for them over a full season in that ballpark and getting extra time in New Yankee Stadium, Boston, and hitter friendly Baltimore.

    Even if the player traded for wasn’t considered quite ready yet, the M’s have moved Mike Morse to a seemingly permanent second base, so i definitley think they are looking at trading Lopez soon. And Mike could fill in this season well while some young middle-infielder prospect develops a little more.

  31. bilbo27 on May 26th, 2009 4:42 pm

    One intriguing young SS prospect the Rays have is Reid Brignac (bats left, throws right). He looks like he’s a relatively patient hitter, with a little pop, who can also hit for some average. I have no idea about his defensive prowess, but his other numbers look pretty good, especially for his age (around 23).

    The M’s could always trade Lopez to them and throw in a good bullpen arm or something if needs be and then move Brignac or Yuni to second or replace Yuni at short with Brignac and call up Morse to cover second.

    Just a thought. Anyone know if Brignac is any good defensively at short?

  32. joser on May 26th, 2009 5:01 pm

    Morse at second? Isn’t the ultimate point of this process to make the team better?

  33. marc w on May 26th, 2009 5:04 pm

    Bilbo,

    I’ve liked Brignac for years – his age 18/19 season in the MWL was pretty amazing.
    Problem is, with the injury to Iwamura, Brignac’s suddenly in the Rays starting line-up. It’d take more than Lopez (higher salary, worse defense, potentially worse offense) to pry him away.

  34. bilbo27 on May 26th, 2009 6:54 pm

    @joser: I wasn’t implying Morse at second permanently. Just perhaps as a stop gap if some middle infielder prospect they trade Lopez for isn’t quite ready this year.

    It very much looks like the M’s are thinking along the same lines as well as Morse is only playing second base these days.

  35. dirk on May 26th, 2009 7:23 pm

    I’d think that Kazuo Matsui could be had for nothing right now. Good hitter vs. RHP’s and can run. He seems to be ok with the glove (2 errors in 184 chances), but I don’t know how he fares with advanced defensive metrics.

    Kazuo Matsui’s three year splits vs. RHP: .294 .347 .422 .769

  36. marc w on May 26th, 2009 10:17 pm

    bilbo,

    Er, no, Morse isn’t just playing 2nd these days – he’s mostly back at SS thanks to some injuries to Chris Woodward. He’s logged time at 3B every now and again as well, but in terms of games, he’s played mostly at SS, then 3B, and then 2b (5 times). It’s sort of odd seeing him at SS again…
    What’s funny is that he actually WOULD be an improvement at 2B at this point. He’d give up some runs on D, but not that many considering Lopez’s start, and he’d probably add a few on offense. This is a less than ideal situation, but Lopez’s awfulness is what occasioned this whole discussion.

  37. TranquilPsychosis on May 28th, 2009 12:01 am

    It’s sort of odd seeing him at SS again…
    What’s funny is that he actually WOULD be an improvement at 2B at this point. He’d give up some runs on D, but not that many considering Lopez’s start

    Sickening as the thought is, he’d probably be an improvement at short about now too. At least defensively…

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