The End of Mike Carp

Dave · December 20, 2012 at 11:48 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Last night, we pointed out how acquiring Kendrys Morales does not necessarily mean that the team is ready to give up on Justin Smoak. There’s been a lot of focus on the fact that Smoak has an option left, and people have noted that perhaps the team would be better off with Mike Carp serving as part of the job share at 1B/DH and Smoak down in Tacoma playing everyday. The problem is, when you actually look at what Morales brings to the table, the reality is that Carp no longer fits on this roster in any way, shape, or form.

The Mariners are talking about Morales as an everyday player, and since he’s a switch-hitter, he’s being penciled into the middle of the Mariners line-up regardless of who is pitching. But, there’s a catch – Morales is a very different hitter from the left side of the plate than he is from the right side. Jeff will have more detail on this over at FanGraphs later this afternoon, but for now, we’ll just present Morales’ career platoon splits:

vs R as L 1370 7% 19% 0.290 0.345 0.514 0.224 0.317 0.365 127
vs L as R 392 4% 16% 0.250 0.286 0.416 0.166 0.266 0.303 84

To put that in context, a 127 wRC+ from the left side makes him the equivalent of 2012 Adam LaRoche, while an 84 wRC+ from the right side makes him the equivalent of 2012 Justin Smoak. Morales mashes right-handed pitching, but he’s pretty lousy against lefties, to the point where the Angels basically used him as a platoon player last year. 85% of Morales’ plate appearances came against right-handed pitching last year, the exact same ratio as John Jaso. The average hitter in MLB last year faced an RHP about 70% of the time, and the numbers aren’t much different for switch-hitters. The Angels severely limited Morales’ at-bats against lefties, to the point where he was platooned to the same degree that the Mariners platooned Jaso.

Despite what you’ve been told by some people in an attempt justify their inability to admit that John Jaso is actually a good player, big platoon splits don’t mean that a hitter is incapable of playing a significant part in an offense. It just means that you have to be aware of the splits, and you should probably make sure the roster is constructed in such a way that his days off can align with the days when he’s going to be least productive. For Jaso, that means making sure you have a right-handed catcher that you’re comfortable starting behind the plate. As a switch-hitter, Morales doesn’t necessarily need a platoon caddy in the same way, but his ineffectiveness from the right side does mean that the guys splitting time with him should be able to hit left-handed pitching.

And, unfortunately for Mike Carp, that means that he’s out. With Jaso and Morales, you have two guys who should be in the line-up against every right-handed pitcher, and then the third spot in the C/1B/DH wheel would go to Jesus Montero or whoever the other part-time 1B/DH is. The organization isn’t going to bench Montero against all right-handers, so this is probably a 50/50 job share at best for whoever the first baseman is. That guy’s going to have to get a decent amount of his playing time against left-handers, when Jaso will be on the bench, and giving Morales a day off will get him a break from his weak side.

As a lefty, Carp’s a lousy fit for that role. Yes, he’s hit lefties better than righties in the majors, but reverse platoon splits are almost always just a small sample fluke, and there’s no reason to push Carp into a role where most of his playing time is going to come against same-handed pitchers. The only sensible player for that role is someone who can bat right-handed, in order to maximize the value of the job share by giving Morales most of his days off against lefties.

Given the current roster, the alignment right now would include Jaso/Morales/Montero playing against most right-handers, and then Montero/Morales/someone playing against the lefties. That someone should be a righty, since you’re already losing Jaso’s bat and Morales is significantly weaker against southpaws. The Mariners probably aren’t going to platoon Morales, but they need to at least account for the fact that he’s not going to hit lefties as well as he is righties, and they can’t offset their vs LHP line-up by adding another lefty to the mix.

That’s why there’s room on this roster for Justin Smoak. As a switch-hitter, he can give you another right-handed bat against southpaws, but he also gives the option of getting another left-handed bat in there against tough righties on days when you want to give Montero a break from swinging at sliders in the dirt. He can get enough at-bats against both RHPs and LHPs to prove whether or not his September surge was a fluke or not, and if he performs really well, his role can always grow as the season goes on.

For Carp, though, he just doesn’t fit anymore. He didn’t really fit before, either, but now with Morales on board, he really doesn’t fit. Sending Smoak to Tacoma and putting Carp at first base works in theory, but not in practice. Whatever part-time first baseman the Mariners end up settling on to share time with Morales has to right-handed. At this point, the Mariners might as well trade Carp for whatever they can get. There’s no job he can even realistically pretend to be fighting for in spring training.


112 Responses to “The End of Mike Carp”

  1. MrZDevotee on December 24th, 2012 2:41 pm

    I pray to God there’s a deal in the works for a starting pitcher. And pretty sure Z likes a lot of what’s out there, if he was keen to ship out Vargas (closest to a #2 on this team).

    Agreed, if this is “it” come April, I’m on the freakout boat. Paddling hard. Changing my username to “Women & Children first”… *laugh*

  2. _Hutch_ on December 24th, 2012 4:21 pm

    I’m all about building for the future, the value of a good farm system, etc. but it blows my mind that the team would pass on signing a perennial 4-win player because of the idea of giving up the 12th overall pick in a draft class generally considered weak. Especially given the current state of the franchise, with attendance in freefall, other parts of the division spending big and only two more years of Felix left. If there was ever a time to make an investment in a free agent, this is it.

  3. Westside guy on December 25th, 2012 10:14 am

    Yuniesky Betancourt is still available.

  4. stevemotivateir on December 25th, 2012 5:18 pm


    You could argue that the Rangers have had a pretty rough off-season as well, after trading Young, losing Hamilton, and missing out on Greinke.

    But yeah, I agree with ya. It made so much sense, for so many reasons, to go after a guy like Swisher. I’m still a bit in shock over what we’ve seen.

  5. raul_podzednick on December 26th, 2012 8:47 am

    Why aren’t people more excited about Kendrys Morales?

    Is it because we didn’t sign him as a free agent?

    Needed a big bat, got a big bat!

  6. Westside guy on December 26th, 2012 9:31 am

    I like Moralez – but his acquisition did nothing to address the team’s needs in the outfield; and then the team’s moves to pick up a couple of Large-Item-Pickup-Day outfielders dampened any enthusiasm I had.

    BTW Wedge has apparently pushed specifically for picking up Raul this offseason and last – so prepare yourself to see lots of him.

  7. Paul B on December 26th, 2012 9:50 am

    I think Delmon Young is still available. He’s meh, but could be useful to the M’s. The M’s already have him in Wells, but Wedge apparently doesn’t like Wells (because Wedge can’t tell good players from bad players).

    Wouldn’t surprise me if the M’s crash and burn, Ibanez hits almost as good as Ryan, and Wedge is gone by July.

  8. JasonJ on December 26th, 2012 10:52 am

    Well I hope we don’t bring in Delmon Young. He’s not an improvement over anybody we already have. Although I don’t see how Bay and Ibanez are an improvement over Wells and Carp so clearly that isn’t the motivation by JZ. Must be the veteran grit thing that’s driving these moves.

  9. Westside guy on December 26th, 2012 10:57 am

    They’ve said it was “veteran presence” they were looking for, Jason… and I’ve got nothing against that. It’s just that I’d like to see that “presence” come in here with someone that’s still at the top of their game for a change.

  10. Paul B on December 26th, 2012 10:59 am

    Or at least someone who is better in some measurable way to the players they already have.

  11. JasonJ on December 26th, 2012 11:53 am

    You are correct. It is “veteran presence” but it’s more fun to associate some sort of old west “grit” to it. Picturing these old gunslingers showing up and willing the team to victory based on their presence alone helps me cope with these odd signings.

    Maybe my memory is bad, but wasn’t Wedge heralded as a manager who could get the most out of young players, based on his time in Celveland? Why is it now that he’s looking for veterans to come in and take AB’s away from the youngsters?

    Or maybe I’m reading too much into these moves and assigning a greater meaning to them when it’s possible that Ibanez is just more of the same dumpster-diving/bobble-head driven moves that we can’t seem to move beyond.

  12. terryoftacoma on December 26th, 2012 12:23 pm

    I would point out that Bourn would also cost us a first round draft choice. I don’t think he’ll be coming here.

    I see Smoak starting the season at Tacoma,maybe even Montero and I think Wells will be part of a deal for a starter.

    I’m not going to freak out about this because I didn’t think we would sign a big name anyway.

    Morales, Ibanez and Bay are all one year deals. If they produce even a little, they could be valuable as mid-season trades. You have to have something worth trading to pick anything of value up. We haven’t had anything but pitchers to trade for a while now.

    Sure these are not the outfield upgrades we wanted but face it they are probably better than the Robinson Figgins and company outfield we had last year. They may in fact be the best that wanted to come here. Which says a lot.

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