Series Preview – Mariners at Blue Jays
Now that the Rangers have well and truly kicked the life out of the 2011 season, it’s time the M’s focused on player development goals that could pave the way for an improvement in 2012. The M’s head east for a road trip that begins in Toronto, where they’ll face another team that’s looking for improvement in some young players that they hope form the core of a contending roster down the road.
The M’s face lefty starters on Tuesday and Thursday, and they’ll see old friend Brandon Morrow in between. Given Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and now Mike Carp hit lefty, one critical goal for the M’s will be to figure out how to hurt lefty starters. Derek Holland and CJ Wilson didn’t seem to break a sweat against this line-up, and while Ackley started off hot against lefties (including his HR against Johnny Venters), Justin Smoak’s been the M’s most consistent right-handed bat. The M’s will need Greg Halman and/or Franklin Gutierrez to contribute. Production out of Brendan Ryan/Jack Wilson would be nice, but that’s getting pretty fanciful. Franklin Gutierrez used to excel against lefties, but I don’t think anyone expects a whole lot from him now.
The M’s also need to assess exactly what kind of hitter Mike Carp is against righties. This may interfere with him playing every day, and I know many want to see Carp sink or swim, but the M’s need to see a lot of both Halman and Carp. Halman needs to show that he can hit more than just the occasional HR without sending his K rate through the roof, and Carp needs to show that his struggles against righties were a small-sample mirage. No one’s asking either player to single-handedly claim the LF spot next year; rather, each just needs to show that they can be of some use if they’re put in advantageous situations.
Jays RF/Demi-god Jose Bautista missed his last game with a slight ankle injury, but is expected back for tomorrow’s game. Travis Snider was awful in April (I can still see his “swing” against a Pineda slider) and was sent down to AAA for a while, but he’s got 10 extra-base hits in 11 games since being recalled. JP Arencibia is essentially a young Miguel Olivo, as he’s got a wOBA of .305 despite a terrible OBP. He’s been awful against right-handers this year, despite not showing much of a platoon split in the minors. Aaron Hill’s descent from slugging 2B star to poor man’s Jack Wilson is nearly as bizarre as Gutierrez’ collapse. He hit 36 HRs two years ago on his way to a 4 win season. Last year, he still hit 26 long balls, but put up a putrid slash line of .205/.271/.394. Jays fans pointed to his sub-.200 BABIP as a reason for hope in 2011, but instead, he’s cratered. He’s got all of four HRs and a .274 wOBA that makes him one of the few regular players who’s hit worse than the Seattle Mariners.
What are you looking for in the remainder of 2011? Should Seager and Carp play against lefties even if it makes shutouts more likely? Should the M’s pick up older stop-gaps (Marcus Thames, maybe) to improve the watchability of these meaningless games, or would you accept another 100+ losses if it provided some meaningful input for 2012 roster construction?