Michael Saunders New Swing Isn’t Working

Dave · May 5, 2011 at 8:42 am · Filed Under Mariners 

My latest piece for the 710sports.com blog is now up, and it deals with the poor early returns that Michael Saunders is getting from his reworked swing. The first few paragraphs are below, and you can check out the rest over at their site.

So far, the two huge bright spots for the Mariners on the season have been Michael Pineda and Justin Smoak, who have both shown why they were so highly regarded while they were climbing the minor league ladder. These two have both established themselves as building blocks for the future, and even at present, two of the best players on the team. They give the organization reason for optimism, which is really what this year is all about.

Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders is hitting .195 with a .293 slugging percentage this season. (AP)

However, they’re not the only two young guys on the team trying to make an impression. The other notable youngster who came up with considerable promise is outfielder Michael Saunders, and unfortunately, his third tour in the big leagues isn’t going so well.

Read the rest…

Also, I’ll be on with Brock and Salk today at 11:30. 710 AM in the Seattle area or listen online at 710sports.com.


21 Responses to “Michael Saunders New Swing Isn’t Working”

  1. GoldenGutz on May 5th, 2011 11:06 am

    I’ve always said this, I want to like him, but his play doesn’t warrant it. And I even mentioned on a forum during the game after he struck out the 2nd time, “I’ve lost hope.” Seattle is giving him every chance to hit and show he belongs, he’s just blowing this oppurtunity.

  2. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2011 11:20 am

    From my own observations, I don’t think it’s necessarily that he’s less patient, it’s that pitchers know how to get him out and are throwing him more strikes in places he can’t hit them. Meaning, ultimately, they’re throwing him fewer pitches per at-bat.

    I’ve been shocked at the number of 0-2 and 1-2 pitch counts he’s had.

    And he absolutely refuses to wreck any 1st pitch strikes no matter how fat and mid-centered they are, which puts him in a hole.

    So most at bats go:

    1) called strike
    2) carefully trying hard to hit something, because he knows he sucks on 2 strike pitches (which is not the right attitude to be successful with– and is only successful when he gets thrown a ball and doesn’t swing)
    3) then, overmatched and flailing wildly at strike 3, or else watching it called for a strike out.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but he appears to have passed the point of figuring it out on the fly at the Major League level. He’s looking like the definition of insanity (“doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”).

    I guess he should probably be sent down when Guty is called up, where he can hit higher in the order and get more at bats to work on his approach.

    That sucks, more than his current hitting. We need him to do well. But, he’s doing worse than a lot of our former “change of scenery” candidates (a’la Mike Morse, Yuniesky, WFB, etc.)… Which doesn’t bode well in his 3rd time up.

  3. Sports on a Schtick on May 5th, 2011 11:27 am

    I can’t be the only one who’s thought about putting Ackley in the outfield…

  4. Chris_From_Bothell on May 5th, 2011 11:42 am

    I can’t be the only one who’s thought about putting Ackley in the outfield…

    In the grand tradition of trying to put square pegs in round holes (See Figgins, Chone and Wilson, Jack), Ackley came up as a left fielder but was shoved over to second base in AAA. I don’t think he’ll see an outfield again unless he’s moving back on a pop fly to shallow right.

  5. spankystout on May 5th, 2011 12:32 pm

    I still can’t believe someone as tall as Saunders can’t reach the outside third of the plate. Even little Ichiro can hit balls well outside the zone– and Saunders can’t even foul off a strike on the outside corner. Bah humbug to bad player development and Saunders. He should have never been promoted if he can’t reach 33% of the strike zone.

  6. Thingray on May 5th, 2011 1:05 pm

    Chris_From_Bothell: Ackley has played second base for his entire professional career. We haven’t made him switch positions once since he was drafted.

    As for Saunders, it seems to me that he could benefit from some time in AAA to continue to work on his “new swing”. As much as I love Saunders, it’s just not working for him right now, and this year is his last chance to prove he should have a spot with the team.

  7. Westside guy on May 5th, 2011 1:20 pm

    Thingray, I don’t necessarily disagree with you, and I know what I’m about to speculate on won’t happen, but – I think, once Guti’s back, it might make sense to let Saunders continue to try to solve this versus Major League pitching. He’s a better defender than Uncle Milty, and frankly Bradley isn’t exactly tearing it up at the plate. According to FanGraphs, while Saunders has only been worth 0.1 WAR overall – Bradley’s at -0.2!

    I know we’re only a few games back, but I still believe this team being competitive in 2011 is an illusion. We’re not in the running – might as well make this Saunders’ sink or swim year. We already know Condor can hit AAA pitching…

  8. bookbook on May 5th, 2011 1:43 pm

    It’s starting to feel like the only interesting question about Saunders at this point is whether he’ll be a Royal or a Pirate next.

    Oh wait, KC has become a crazy prospect factory, hasn’t it? I guess it’s Yellow and Black for the Condor.

  9. spankystout on May 5th, 2011 1:46 pm

    Saunders a soon to be Pirate or Royal? Haha so true, so true. We do know the Phillies didn’t want him.

  10. msfanmike on May 5th, 2011 2:44 pm

    I can’t be the only one who’s thought about putting Ackley in the outfield…

    You aren’t. And, with good reason. Ackley might not be able to handle 2B defensively at the Major League level. There are not overwhelmingly good reports in regard to his defenseive ability. He is not a natural at that position. We want to pretend and hope that he can handle the position, but he might not be able to. At least not to the extent that this team will need him to be proficient at it. For this team, defense matters a lot – because the offense is so bad. Ackley certainly doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder, but if he can be a productive hitter of any kind – in LF – he would be an upgrade. The jury is still out on that too, but all indications are that he will be able to swing the stick proficiently.

    Ackley has played CF and LF in his college career and he does have pretty good speed. His “best path” to the big leagues could change. It has happened before and he isn’t really all that great with the glove at 2B.

  11. paracorto on May 5th, 2011 2:45 pm

    “I don’t think he’ll see an outfield again unless he’s moving back on a pop fly to shallow right…”

    …or unless he’s traded, thus becoming an instant hitting sensation after two years of vain efforts here. Seattle is hardtime for hitting prospects.

  12. msfanmike on May 5th, 2011 3:07 pm

    The best that we can progbably hope for with Saunders is that he has some sort of Alex Gordon type of epiphany and eventually figures it out. Gordon’s swing is much more pure though, with far fewer holes.

    There are other guys waiting in the wings for their shot if Saunders doesn’t get it figured out soon -(Peguero, Wilson, Shafer, McOwen, etc. etc). Whether they end up being any good or not, I have no idea … but they will be (or at least should be) given a shot. Saunders has had a fairly extended look and he only appears to have gotten worse and it doesn’t look like its simply a case of a “cold streak.” He just isn’t much of a hiter and doesn’t recognize pitches well enough in order to become a good hitter.

  13. bigpoppa01 on May 5th, 2011 3:57 pm

    I still can’t believe someone as tall as Saunders can’t reach the outside third of the plate.

    Richie Sexson says hello.

  14. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2011 4:19 pm

    RE: Ackley

    I said in a game thread the other day (when Langerhans and Saunders were back to back in the batting order): “How often do you think the front office is asking itself ‘is it too late to move Ackley back to the outfield’?”

    It’s not an awful idea. Although I haven’t heard mention of how his shoulder plays these days (his last year in college he was moved to 1B because of a shoulder injury that was still nagging him).

    Here we have a kid who projects out to a nice MLB bat and is a former athletic, All-American outfielder… On a team that has struggled pretty much since its inception to find a competent left fielder (one of the longest running mysteries for old time M’s fans– “why can’t we find a decent left fielder?”)

    He could fit the Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Rickey Hendersen, Vince Coleman mold… And if he was hitting right now, we could bring him up sooner rather than later.

    Instead, we cross our fingers and hope we don’t see a repeat of our Brandon Morrow/Chone Figgins experiments gone wrong. (If he’s struggling at defense, and knows that’s the obstacle keeping him from making it to the next level, hopefully it doesn’t affect his bat, and make it even less likely of being promoted… He did have a grand slam the other night, though, in Tacoma no less, so maybe he’s heating up.)

  15. paracorto on May 5th, 2011 4:29 pm

    Too late ? Ackley could play LF with one hand only. Unfortunately sometimes it’s not considered a brilliant idea that one to field players where they belong and let their bat developing anxiety free. Nobody would note such a simple move.

  16. spankystout on May 5th, 2011 5:05 pm

    Oh I remember Sexson very well. I despised his contract, and approach from day one. But at one time in baseball history Sexson was a decent major league player with serious power–despite his glaring flaws. Saunders hasn’t produced anything.

  17. Chris_From_Bothell on May 5th, 2011 6:03 pm

    Thingray: Oh, I’d always thought the move to second came between AAA and AA. My bad. His wikipedia entry is a bit contradictory on what he did in college.


  18. djtizzo on May 5th, 2011 6:55 pm

    What is the approx time a team is supposed to wait for a player to develop in the bigs? The M’s had a CF (J.Reed) not long ago that was awsome in the field and crappy at the plate. Saunders is NOT awsome in the field and crappy at the plate! Why is this happening again?

  19. msfanmike on May 5th, 2011 7:12 pm

    What is the approx time a team is supposed to wait for a player to develop in the bigs?

    There is no good answer to this question. Sometimes it has everything to do with “who’s guy he is” and how much money they originally invested in the player. Remember Shin Soo Choo? The organization gave him about 40 at bats and decided he was expendable … and he was a hell of a lot better prospect than Saunders. The M’s have a bad history of “guessing” with prospective prospects. If your own internal player evals are competent and legitimate, then you will know soon with some guys and be willing to wait a lot longer with other guys based on the evaluation of their tools and estimated “ceiling.”

    Saunders has probably had his head so filled with suggestions that he is thinking too much. See ball hit ball may be his best approach. Then again, he may be doing that already and it just ain’t working and the failures are starting to fester.

    BTW: Is there going to be a game thread today, or did one pop up as I typed?

  20. msfanmike on May 5th, 2011 7:14 pm

    There it is

  21. joser on May 6th, 2011 12:09 pm

    All the talk of Ackley-to-the-outfield overlooks the TJ surgery and the real concerns about his arm’s ability to hold up to throws from the outfield over a major league career. It’s the reason he played a season at 1B in college. Now it’s true that many pitchers come back from TJ surgery, some even stronger than before; but not all do. Not many outfielders need TJ surgery in the first place, so he’s already the kind of outlier that makes you cautious.

    Ackley did return to the outfield and make some throws from there at the end of his college career, but we don’t know how that felt for him or what the Mariners’ medical professionals think of the state of his arm today.

    Just because he played a good outfield before his surgery we can’t automatically assume he could go back there now. I’d rather have a wooden-but-improving 2B than a might’ve-been guy who’s selling insurance or doing color commentary because his arm fell off.

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