Many Hands Make Light Work

Dave · July 25, 2009 at 8:49 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s a common refrain to hear people say that the M’s need another bat or two to be a real contender. The offense is bad, there’s no doubt about that. Their .313 team wOBA is 6th worst in baseball. However, I’d like to suggest that the M’s don’t need to get one big bat – they just need a couple smaller ones.

Let’s compare our offense to the Rangers offense, for instance. They have a .335 wOBA that ranks 10th in baseball. When you adjust for their home park, they come out just a bit above average. If the M’s had the Rangers offense, they’d be right in the thick of things, and we’d be talking about chasing down the Angels over the last two months.

Texas’ offense is led by Nelson Cruz (.380 wOBA), Michael Young (.371 wOBA), and Ian Kinsler (.357 wOBA). Those three have combined to be +34 runs above average on the season. The Mariners offense is led by Russ Branyan (.390 wOBA), Ichiro (.374 wOBA), and Franklin Gutierrez (.350 wOBA). Those three have combined to be +46 runs above average so far this year.

The M’s big three bats have been better than Texas’ big three by a fairly decent margin. The difference between the two isn’t in the quality of the good hitters, but instead in the quality of the bad hitters.

The Rangers have five players who have gotten significant playing time and been below average hitters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chris Davis, Taylor Teagardan, Elvis Andrus, and Josh Hamilton have racked up -37.5 runs between them, basically canceling out the work of the top three and giving the Rangers an average offense overall.

The Mariners, on the other hand… the guys who have held down shortstop (Cedeno + Betancourt), catcher (Johnson, Johjima, and Burke), DH (Griffey and Sweeney), third base (Beltre, Woodward, and Hannahan), and left field (Chavez, Balentien, and Langerhans) have almost all been below average. Their combined total: -68.7 runs.

The M’s are 29th in wOBA from shortstop, 29th in wOBA from catcher, 13th (of 14) in wOBA from designated hitter, 30th in wOBA at left field, and 27th in wOBA at third base. The good work done by Ichiro, Gutierrez, and Branyan is wiped out by the lack of offense the team has gotten from these other five spots.

The difference between Texas’ offense and Seattle’s offense isn’t that they have more big bats, but instead that they have little bats that are okay instead of terrible. Omar Vizquel, Hank Blalock, David Murphy, Marlon Byrd – role players who can hit a little bit and won’t sink the offense when they’re on the field. This is what the Mariners are lacking.

The team needed more Ryan Langerhans and less Ronny Cedeno. You can win with average bats playing great defense behind a decent pitching staff. You can’t with with lousy bats playing great defense behind a decent pitching staff. The Mariners simply have too many lousy bats.

The problem spots are catcher, shortstop, and designated hitter. The M’s got good enough value from the gloves at 3B/LF to justify the offensive levels that they got from those positions. The same can’t be said at the other spots. Rob Johnson, for all the talk about how much pitchers love him, doesn’t have enough offense to be the #1 catcher for a playoff team. Ronny Cedeno has done a nice job defending at short, but he’s miscast as anything other than a utility infielder. Ken Griffey Jr and Mike Sweeney may have been great for the clubhouse, but they didn’t live up to their end of the bargain on the field.

These are the positions the M’s have to address going forward.

Adam Moore may push his way into the catcher conversation next year, but if the team isn’t ready to give the catching job to two youngsters, they’ll need to go get an offensive minded backstop that Wak can live with behind the plate for 2010.

Shortstop, the answer has to come from outside the system. There aren’t any internal options. You know the names by now – JJ Hardy, Reid Brignac, Jack Wilson if they want a stop-gap who will have to settle for a one year deal… the M’s will have to get someone in here over the winter who can play the position and hit enough to justify his paycheck.

DH should be fairly easy, honestly. Russ Branyan isn’t the only under-appreciated hitter who hasn’t been able to land a full-time job and is just waiting for his shot. Jeff Clement probably deserves another look, and Mike Carp may be able to give him a run at the internal candidate position as well. Eric Hinske could serve as a short-term fill-in, or you could try to get Jake Fox from the Cubs as a more long term solution. Finding a DH who can hit just isn’t that hard.

As the M’s begin to shift their focus towards 2010, they should not be seduced into looking for “a big bat”. They don’t need another all-star caliber hitter. They just need a few more guys who don’t totally suck at the plate.


33 Responses to “Many Hands Make Light Work”

  1. GoMariners on July 25th, 2009 9:08 am

    Great post. It really hits the nail on the head. Too sad that it is too late to find the smaller bats this season. I also think that Zduriencik will have money available to make a couple of really expensive signings (be it pitchers or position players) if he wants to go that route a little bit as well in addition to the great value signings. Wouldn’t that be what it takes to build the team to be perennial contenders like the Yankees and Red Sox?

  2. Dave on July 25th, 2009 9:19 am

    No. The team’s core is championship caliber. Ichiro, Felix, Gutierrez, Branyan – that’s comparable to any four players New York, Boston, or Tampa Bay can put on the field. The difference is almost entirely at the bottom of the roster.

    Where they have Jed Lowrie, we have Ronny Cedeno. Where they have Jorge Posada, we have Rob Johnson. Where they have Ben Zobrist, we have Jose Lopez.

    The good news is that there’s help coming from the farm system. One or two of Saunders, Moore, Clement, Carp, and Tui will stick on this roster next year, and probably be a productive regular. The pitching staff will add one or two of Phillippe Aumont, Josh Fields, and Nick Hill. There are internal candidates to improve a few of the low-end spots on the roster.

    In addition, Jack got us Langerhans/Hannahan, who will both be here next year as useful reserves. So, the bench is already strengthened for 2010.

    This team just badly needs a legitimate shortstop, and then they can figure out C/DH. They don’t need to spend a ton of money on John Lackey or Matt Holliday – they need to spend a little bit of money (and talent) to get JJ Hardy or Reid Brignac.

  3. flashbeak on July 25th, 2009 9:22 am

    Great post. Really, you should consider a job in baseball management…. The sad thing is we have a lot of these potential smaller bats in our system that are pretty damn close to ready to play in the big leagues: Jeff Clement, Mike Carp, Bryan LaHair, Prentice Redman, and even Michael Saunders. You mentioned Adam Moore, and I read that Jack Z is going to call him up (before the September callups date) once he gets some extra defensive work. I think now it’s time to put your sell/buy simultaneously technique to work and just keep winning. We shouldn’t sign out of the race, but there’s no good in keeping around Bedard/Washburn if Wak is going to post a lineup with significant holes in it nightly.

  4. JH on July 25th, 2009 9:26 am

    LaHair’s not close to ready to do anything except serve as an occasional lefty bat off the bench, and even then there are better options.

    He is, on the other hand, 100% ready to continue his career in triple-A as a useful organizational guy for the next 5-6 years.

  5. mironos on July 25th, 2009 9:34 am

    Really good post. That’s a good insight. Thanks.

    Do you feel that Langerhans is/will be “not-bad” enough in LF next year to allow the M’s to make filling that hole less a priority than SS-C-DH? Obviously, a lot of that is determined by who is available out there, but having to fill four different position in one offseason seems a bit daunting.

  6. mironos on July 25th, 2009 9:40 am

    Well, since you specifically mentioned SS-C-DH as trouble spots and NOT LF, you obviously do. Duh.

    Let me rephrase my question — would you feel comfortable w/ Langerhans playing LF next year?

  7. mkd on July 25th, 2009 9:49 am

    Posts like this one are why I read USSM.

  8. JI on July 25th, 2009 9:55 am

    I’ve been saying this for years.

  9. WildBeggar on July 25th, 2009 9:56 am

    Posts like this one are why I read USSM.

    Agreed. Great work. USSM is my default home page during the baseball season.

  10. tmac9311 on July 25th, 2009 9:57 am

    Saunders will be in left next year, not Langerhans.

    DH will not be fixed until next year if you ask me, even adding a shortstop won’t get us to the postseason. Griffey is still so beloved, and when he is at bat 75% of Safeco thinks he will lead us to victory. I really think fans would be more upset if we cut Griffey rather than traded Washburn/Bedard.

  11. djw on July 25th, 2009 9:59 am

    In posing the question about who will support the core in 2010, this post seems to assume that Branyan will be around next year. I’d be rather pleased with that outcome but I didn’t realize things were moving in that direction.

  12. GoMariners on July 25th, 2009 10:01 am

    I think that Zduriencik could hire Dave as an assitant GM if Dave is interested. Dave could also get a job as a GM. I don’t see why not. He understands baseball better than many GMs. However, we might end up being on the losing end if Dave gets a job in baseball because he may not be allowed to continue to post to the U.S.S. Mariner blog, or he might have to not express all the opinions he has on many topics…

  13. juneau_fan on July 25th, 2009 10:03 am

    Thank you, thank you. I am so tired of hearing about this mythical big bat–I end wondering about poster’s own big bat because the passion of the insistence.

    Runs are what we need, not one guy striking out and occasionally hitting a home run.

  14. jeanious on July 25th, 2009 10:04 am

    Really good post. So good, in fact, it made me register just so I could let you guys know how much I love this site.

    Now back to learning by lurking.

    Keep up the great work.

  15. Tek Jansen on July 25th, 2009 10:12 am

    I don’t think that Zduriencik will be seduced by the “big bat theory” that captivates so many sports talk radio callers. His acquisitions so far have demonstrated that he knows how to identify good players who can contribute in a variety of ways.

    Zduriencik solved CF and, by extension, the OF in general last winter. I expect that he can do something to fix the middle infield by this winter at the latest.

  16. dbroncos31 on July 25th, 2009 10:14 am

    Fantastic post. DH shouldn’t be hard to fix with Clement, Carp or another one of Z’s great pickups. SS is difficult, but there are deals to be made.

    What about Chris Synder as a potential trade option for C? The D-Backs seem to be souring on him as written about here.

    They seem to believe Miguel Montero is the answer there. Snyder will be 29 next year and is in the 1st year of a 3 year contract worth $14.25 million with a $6.75 million team option in 2012).

    Basically a league average player every year for decent money.

    I have no idea what it would take to get him, but he seems like a good idea. Your thoughts?

  17. JH on July 25th, 2009 10:14 am

    Yep. I’m really excited about the possibilities of GMZ’s second off-season. Hopefully the team doesn’t trim payroll much, and Z can put the almost $30-million in expiring salaries to good use.

    Last offseason was marked by truly remarkable bargain-bin shopping. I’m really looking forward to see what he can do with some money.

  18. Shizane on July 25th, 2009 10:31 am

    [has its own post now]

  19. dirk on July 25th, 2009 10:33 am

    [has its own post now]

  20. thr33niL on July 25th, 2009 10:34 am

    [has its own post now]

  21. dirk on July 25th, 2009 10:36 am

    [has its own post now]

  22. Sports on a Schtick on July 25th, 2009 10:38 am

    Lopez really needs to go. We know what he is and it isn’t good enough. SS will come either trade or FA. I’m fine with Johnson as long as the pitcher like him. That position is too nebulous to evaluate. And who is this so-called Jeff Clement?????

  23. Dave on July 25th, 2009 10:39 am

    Do you feel that Langerhans is/will be “not-bad” enough in LF next year to allow the M’s to make filling that hole less a priority than SS-C-DH?

    Langerhans is basically the perfect fourth outfielder. He’s good enough to play regularly if someone is hurt, and has value as a pinch hitter/pinch runner/defensive replacement if everyone is healthy. He shouldn’t stand in Michael Saunders’ way, though – if Saunders has a good spring, I’d imagine he’ll be the team’s starting LF on Opening Day next year.

    In posing the question about who will support the core in 2010, this post seems to assume that Branyan will be around next year.

    I’d bet on it, personally. Branyan feels some loyalty towards Zduriencik for giving him his first real shot, and the M’s could certainly use him again. He’ll get a raise, but he won’t command a long term deal – I’d expect something like 1 year plus a team option for 2011.

    I think that Zduriencik could hire Dave as an assitant GM if Dave is interested.

    Tony Blengino’s doing a great job in that role.

    What about Chris Synder as a potential trade option for C?

    I think if they decide that they’re not ready to go with a Johnson/Moore combo, you’ll see them go for someone more like Gregg Zaun – switch hitter, won’t require more than a one year deal, is at the point of his career where he’ll take a job-sharing role. Snyder’s more expensive and wants to play everyday.

    Last offseason was marked by truly remarkable bargain-bin shopping. I’m really looking forward to see what he can do with some money.

    I will warn that I don’t think the M’s are going to have as much money to play with this winter as everyone might think.

    Felix makes a little under $4 million this year. He’ll make $10 million or more next year. Gutierrez and Aardsma are both going to get nice raises as first time arbitration eligible guys coming off strong seasons. Mark Lowe will get a raise too, though less of one. Those four guys will probably make ~$10 million more than they made this year.

    Then, there’s the probable re-signing of Branyan, which will eat up a chunk of the available payroll. There’s a chance that either Beltre or Bedard could accept arbitration if offered, which would knock another $10 million or so off the budget.

    If they bring back one of Beltre/Bedard, plus Branyan and the arb eligible guys, that group probably costs $25 to $30 million for 2010. That would leave the M’s with about $70 million in committed salaries for 10 players (in addition to Ichiro, Johjima, Silva, and Lopez, plus the cash going to KC for Betancourt). The low salaries that fill out msot of the rest of the roster push that to around $80 million.

    That leaves the M’s with $10 to $15 million to spend on a shortstop, a DH, and either a third baseman or a starting pitcher. It’s enough to get a couple quality players, but it’s not enough to see us blow the doors off a premium free agent.

  24. joser on July 25th, 2009 10:52 am

    Beautiful work, Dave.

    The difference between the two isn’t in the quality of the good hitters, but instead in the quality of the bad hitters.

    This may be one of the most trenchant, concise, and elegant sentences you’ve written here. It’s right up there with “the most important quality a closer needs is the ability to get opposite-handed hitters out.”

    Per Churchill, Saunders is up with the big club. Sweet.

    Wow, really? What color flag is that?

  25. kgrant on July 25th, 2009 10:53 am

    [has its own thread now]

  26. Techno_Viking- on July 25th, 2009 11:40 am

    Griffey is still so beloved, and when he is at bat 75% of Safeco thinks he will lead us to victory.

    Seriously! At the game last night some drunk was yelling “we want Griffey” when Chris Shelton was at bat. No, no I don’t.

  27. joser on July 25th, 2009 11:43 am

    There’s been some drunk yelling that at M’s games for the past decade. Reality isn’t a strong influence on these people.

  28. SoulofaCitizen on July 25th, 2009 12:28 pm

    Would it make any sense for the M’s to trade Washburn or Bedard to the Yankees, and instead of getting players back, or supplementing lesser players, have them take Silva as well, since the dead weight of his contract is a lot less damaging to the Yankees massive budget than it is to the M’s?

    Would give us more room do all the things Dave suggested and still go after a free agent

  29. Dave on July 25th, 2009 12:28 pm

    No one’s taking Silva’s deal.

  30. joser on July 25th, 2009 1:43 pm

    You might be able to get some team to take Silva’s deal if you paid them $31M to do so (ie, the cost remaining). If the M’s cut him outright I’m not sure any team would even take a flyer on him at the league minimum. Well, KC or the Nationals might. Hey, there’s a thought: perhaps Zduriencik could pull another Yuniesky and send Silva to the Nats and get a couple of prospects back in exchange for paying his salary?

  31. NorthofWrigleyField on July 25th, 2009 5:09 pm

    Mr. Cameron… thanks for throwing Jake Fox’s name out there… but what on earth can the Mariners offer the Cubs that would make a playoff contender trade an important part of their current ballclub? I hope the Cubs do trade him in the offseason for VALUE. I can’t think of a single available member of the Mariners current roster save Aardsma that would help the Cubs win this year, but I would love to hear your suggestion on that. Are you thinking a three-way deal?

    I would be more than happy to have Jake Fox find the Mariners roster in 2010, but I hope the Cubs hold onto him for the rest of the year unless there’s a deal to make the team better. Now… if Derrek Lee ends up having neck problems (he left today’s game after an awkward slide into third… replaced by Jake Fox), I’d be interested in a deal for Branyan, who would probably resign with the Mariners in the offseason.

  32. behappy on July 26th, 2009 12:15 am

    Thanks again Dave for another masterpiece. The only problem is you are sucking so much of my free time reading your delicous posts.

    Anyway, just a quick thought on the 2010 roster. What about our starting pitchers? Once Washburn and Bedard are gone that leaves The King, Morrow, RRS, Vargas and…Silva? Does that sound about right? And if so is that good enough? or do we need an upgrade there as well?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  33. leon0112 on July 26th, 2009 4:51 am

    Is there any official word that Griffey will retire after this season? It would seem that either Clement or Carp would be an upgrade for DH.

    I assume that Sweeney is gone after this season.

    This means the Mariners can upgrade the DH position without spending too much money.

    Dave, as you say, the focus should be on upgrading the SS position.

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