Hall and Saunders

Dave · September 16, 2009 at 9:58 am · Filed Under Mariners 

You’ve probably noticed that Bill Hall has been essentially an everyday player since he arrived in Seattle, and that after Adrian Beltre returned and Mike Carp joined the club when rosters expanded, Wakamatsu has found playing time for Hall by sticking him primarily in left field. Because of that decision, Michael Saunders has essentially disappeared. In the last two weeks, Saunders has three plate appearances. Three.

I know the M’s wanted to see what Hall could offer them if he got regular at-bats, and Saunders hasn’t exactly made a case for more playing time with his performance, but I’m not a fan of this arrangement. While Hall was a nice little pickup as a potentially useful and relatively cheap utility player, his total potential value to the M’s is fairly limited. He turns 30 this winter, and the odds of him fixing his contact problems are slim at best. Given his inability to regularly put the bat on the ball, Hall’s just not going to hit enough to make him a good enough player to be the team’s regular left fielder in 2010.

Saunders, on the other hand, actually has some real ability to improve with regular playing time. He’s had a rough go against major league pitching so far, but there’s a reason they call it a learning curve – the rate of improvement increases exponentially with playing time. We can’t really expect him to figure out how to hit a major league breaking ball sitting on the bench, and the 2010 Mariners could really use a version of Michael Saunders that can hit a breaking ball.

With the team out of contention, the goal for the last two weeks out of the season should be to help next year’s club as much as possible. And for that team, Michael Saunders is simply more important than Bill Hall is. I’m fine with Wak getting Hall in the line-up, but not at Saunders expense.

Less Bill Hall and more Michael Saunders please.

Comments

36 Responses to “Hall and Saunders”

  1. msb on September 16th, 2009 10:03 am

    I thought at first that perhaps they had somehow mislaid Saunders, but on the pregame yesterday Wakamatsu said (when talking about the influx of new faces) that in regards to Saunders, they were working hard with him on his swing, and maybe getting ready for winter ball.

  2. Liam on September 16th, 2009 10:17 am

    After Endy Chavez went down, the Mariners have been jumping from player to player in left field. From Balentien to Langerhans to Saunders to Hall.

  3. lailaihei on September 16th, 2009 10:21 am

    I figured it was that he was doing hard work off the field rather than on it. Saunders isn’t just going through the warm-up routines, batting practice, and then sitting on the bench.

  4. ChrisK on September 16th, 2009 10:30 am

    With the team out of contention, the goal for the last two weeks out of the season should be to help next year’s club as much as possible.

    Do you think Wak has been given implicit “guidance” to win as many meaningless games as possible to help sell more season tickets this offseason? I’m sure ownership would love to use a “From Worst to Above .500″ soundbite that their Marketing Dept and local writers can run with all offseason. Thus, they would be happy to sacrifice player development for wins.

  5. Mike Snow on September 16th, 2009 10:36 am

    It’s not clear why playing Hall over Saunders, especially against righthanders, would actually produce more wins.

  6. eponymous coward on September 16th, 2009 10:47 am

    Do you think Wak has been given implicit “guidance” to win as many meaningless games as possible to help sell more season tickets this offseason?

    No, because this is silly conspiracy theory. The Mariners have basically shed ALL of the casual fans from the 1995-2003 run of good teams- their attendance levels are back down to pre-1995 levels, especially accounting for the growth in population in the Puget Sound area in ~20 years- their attendance in 2009 is going to be close to where they were in 1991 (the first above-500 season). Very few of those casual fans are going to be showing up next year because the Mariners win 82 games instead of 75. The only thing that’s bringing them back is a pennant race and good teams.

  7. bzuckercorn88 on September 16th, 2009 11:10 am

    AHMEN! Everytime I check lineups and continually see Bill Hall instead of Saunders I get very upset.

  8. joser on September 16th, 2009 11:29 am

    If this gets picked up by the mainstream media (Brock and Salk, etc) expect to hear at least one “Saunders was given a chance and didn’t show anything” response… from the people who said exactly the same thing about Adam Jones.

    (It’s weird how powerful first impressions are. Contrast this with Bloomquist, who had pretty much the opposite experience / effect.)

  9. Red Apple on September 16th, 2009 11:36 am

    After Endy Chavez went down, the Mariners have been jumping from player to player in left field. From Balentien to Langerhans to Saunders to Hall.

    Why change 30+ years of history? :-(

  10. mw3 on September 16th, 2009 11:40 am

    Saunders swing needs to be totally reworked which will happen in AAA next year. He dives towards the plate on every swing which is only conducive to someone with + power, like Branyan. Saunders power will only come when he can turn on an inside fastball which he cannot due now. I would agree that he should see more playing time if his problem was simply adjusting to major league off-speed pitches. But when you cannot hit a major league fastball you won’t be able to hit period. And leaving Saunders in there to fail continually is not a good idea.

    When Saunders reworks his stance next year then give him the chance to prove he can hit a major league fastball. Until then playing him when he has no chance at success is detrimental, in my opinion.

    The last thing this team needs is to ruin another young outfielder by letting him continually fail to hit the fastball. As happened to Jeremy Reed. When a young player fails to hit the fastball his swing needs to be reworked to allow for success. A player will never have success when he cannot even catch up to an average ML fastball.

  11. Chris_From_Bothell on September 16th, 2009 1:01 pm

    You’d think you can get a lineup with both Hall and Saunders now, if Jack Wilson is day-to-day.

  12. Dave on September 16th, 2009 1:01 pm

    Saunders swing is fine.

  13. TomTuttle on September 16th, 2009 1:06 pm

    The allure of being a +.500 team must have something to do with this as smart or stupid as that sounds.

  14. Paul B on September 16th, 2009 1:11 pm

    And even if something was wrong with Saunders, then gee, maybe give Langerhans some of the at bats against righties. He could be a valuable platoon player next year as well as Hall.

  15. Mike Snow on September 16th, 2009 1:11 pm

    You’d think you can get a lineup with both Hall and Saunders now, if Jack Wilson is day-to-day.

    They haven’t played Hall at shortstop once, and in fact he hasn’t been used there since 2006. For that matter, they haven’t even kept up the Jack Hannahan as middle infielder experiment. Nothing against him personally, but I’m disappointed every time I see Josh Wilson out there.

  16. hidalgo on September 16th, 2009 1:17 pm

    I wondered what happened to Saunders. I thought maybe he was injured. One of my raps against Wak is he falls in love with players and then they never leave the lineup. I was kinda hoping Hall’s hammy pull was serious.

    And, nice column in the WSJ today, Dave. At least you have one reader with an actual subscription.

  17. Liam on September 16th, 2009 1:21 pm

    Can you post the link Hidalgo?

  18. eponymous coward on September 16th, 2009 1:31 pm

    The allure of being a +.500 team must have something to do with this as smart or stupid as that sounds.

    My guess is that Wak still has a fair amount of freedom to fill out his lineup card, and as we’ve seen, Wak loves his veterans and Designated Babysitters.

  19. Chris Hafner on September 16th, 2009 1:47 pm

    eponymous coward: “My guess is that Wak still has a fair amount of freedom to fill out his lineup card, and as we’ve seen, Wak loves his veterans and Designated Babysitters.”

    Like Rob Johnson over Kenji Johjima at catcher? Or Wladimir Balentien over Griffey in left? Or Vargas/Olson/Fister over Silva or Batista in the rotation? Or even Saunders over Langerhans for a period of time?

    I’m admittedly a Wak fanbody, but I don’t think we can criticize him as not giving young players a shot or being an indiscriminate veteran-lover. As a manager, compared to his peers (or his predecessors here) I’d say he’s certainly not.

    He might overreact to short-term results, but that’s a different issue (and a pretty human characteristic).

    If you were being sarcastic, you got me. :-)

  20. Kazinski on September 16th, 2009 1:48 pm

    Besides more Saunders, I’d like to see Tui getting some reps in at 2nd.

    I wonder if they think that Saunders won’t be ready to be an everyday player until Ackley is ready. But that would be stupid, you can’t have two many young athletic left handed outfielders that can hit, or if you really do have to many then you can trade them.

  21. filthyfred on September 16th, 2009 1:59 pm

    [deleted, stupidity, no caps, be smarter]

  22. filthyfred on September 16th, 2009 2:04 pm

    [more of the same]

  23. Chris Hafner on September 16th, 2009 2:05 pm

    Me, stupidly: “I’m admittedly a Wak fanbody”

    Um, that’s supposed to be fanboy. Fanbody might carry an undesired implication.

  24. TranquilPsychosis on September 16th, 2009 2:23 pm

    But that would be stupid, you can’t have two many young athletic left handed outfielders that can hit, or if you really do have to many then you can trade them.

    Does anyone else see the humor in this sentence?

  25. Mike Snow on September 16th, 2009 2:46 pm

    Too what are you referring?

  26. SonOfZavaras on September 16th, 2009 2:46 pm

    Free “The Condor”!

    Seriously, dude needs to play and get a feel for this level of competition.

    Because how can we expect him to be a solid producer at left field next year if he’s still in the “gee-whiz” stage at the beginning of spring training?

    It usually takes time to figure out for a young player to figure out he belongs as a big-leaguer and that they can hang with these guys around them, skills-wise.

    Saunders needs at least 40 at-bats before this season is over, I’d prefer 50+.

  27. hidalgo on September 16th, 2009 3:17 pm
  28. joser on September 16th, 2009 3:26 pm

    And if there was something wrong with Saunders’ swing, why would the M’s player development people wait until next year to fix it? Why wouldn’t they have done it before he got to AAA, or while he was still there, or right now where he could be getting regular ABs in Tacoma? The evidence suggests that no one in the M’s system thinks there is anything wrong with his swing, so he isn’t going to be going to AAA next year to “fix” it.

    I can’t see Ackley being a consideration either. If Ackley does come along and push Saunders aside, you still want Saunders to be good (ie experienced and hitting well at the major league level) so you can trade him for something valuable, or keep him around in case somebody gets injured, or whatever. But nobody really knows how quickly Ackley will arrive, so making decisions now about Saunders because you’re counting those chickens is silly.

    No, I think Wak wants to give “regular ABs” to Hall in the same way he’s been doing for Sweeney and (pre-injury) Branyan, avoiding platoon splits etc. On the one hand, this is the right approach to not react to small samples and chase “hot hand” / “cold hand” ephemera; on the other hand, it can hurt young player development and be infuriatingly sub-optimal when the player in question really has a platoon split or is just past salvaging.

  29. niterunner on September 16th, 2009 3:31 pm

    I wonder if for some reason the Mariners are trying to preserve Saunders rookie status for next year by keeping his ABs below 130.

  30. Chris Hafner on September 16th, 2009 3:39 pm

    It would obviously be nice if Wak disregarded current performance a bit and gave Saunders more time to get his bearings and start hitting. But wouldn’t it be nice if one of our top hitting prospects made it an easy decision by coming up and catching fire? Jones, Clement, Balentien, Saunders .. even Jeremy Reed’s .935 OPS in 2004 was five years ago now.

    A short-term hot hitting streak might not be at all predictive, but it sure would be nice to have a prospect come up and force their way into some playing time rather than relying on a manager to be patient and to take a long-term view (which they are loath to do).

  31. et_blankenship on September 16th, 2009 3:53 pm

    I wonder if for some reason the Mariners are trying to preserve Saunders rookie status for next year by keeping his ABs below 130.

    You are probably right. With his 100 AB’s, Saunders is currently 30 AB’s away from being deflowered. If he played as a regular over the final 17 games, he would pick up around 60 AB’s. Is an extra 30 AB’s worth a year of control? No.

  32. Mike Snow on September 16th, 2009 4:21 pm

    It’s not about a year of control, it’s about eligibility for a BBWAA award. I’m not sure that’s really the reason in any case.

  33. Snake Hippo on September 16th, 2009 4:54 pm

    So Langerhans is starting in left today.

  34. mw3 on September 16th, 2009 4:55 pm

    Alot of players get to the bigs and have to retool their swing. Older players retool their swing when they lose bat speed.

    A young player can be successfull in the minors with holes in their swing. In the majors those holes will be exploited by pitchers with control. It is common for a young player not to be fully ready the first time up.

    If you’ve watched Saunders closely, he has been lost at the plate from almost the outset. He is only twenty-two so more development time is no big deal.

  35. Dave on September 16th, 2009 5:52 pm

    I’ve watched him closely too, and I think his swing is fine.

  36. ThundaPC on September 16th, 2009 5:58 pm

    Jose Romero (Baker’s Blog) has the following:

    -Wakamatsu on OF Michael Saunders’ role: “Jack [Zduriencik] and I talked and kind of [came up with] a development program. Obviously he came up here, we gave him 100 or so at-bats [stats say exactly 100], took a look at him and it got to a point where he was just trying to do too much. We talked about getting him with Alan [Cockrell, hitting coach] a little bit more on a setting where he doesn’t have to worry about going in there the next day, to where he can make some changes. I think the biggest thing is just getting himself into a position where he can drive the ball a little bit better. He’s an awfully talented player. You want to have guys come up at this point of the year and even earlier and get at-bats to make adjustments, but sometimes you have to evaluate whether those adjustments are going in the right direction.”

    Wakamatsu and Jack Zduriencik felt they weren’t, so they backed off his playing time so Saunders could get a jump on winter ball and not put pressure on him. Saunders might play a game or two, Wakamatsu said, before the end of the season, but probably toward the very end.

    Player auditions for next year’s left-field spot continue, with Hall getting looks and Saunders’ performance in winter ball a big factor, too. “[Ryan] Langerhans has shown us that he can be pretty versatile out there,” Wakamatsu said.

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