The Mariners have Drifted Back to the Middle

Matthew Carruth · May 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 
MARINERS (16-19) ΔMs ATHLETICS (18-18) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA*) -11.6 (23rd) 1.5 18.3 (4th) Athletics
FIELDING (RBBIP) 7.0 (8th) 8.7 -10.9 (26th) Mariners
ROTATION (xRA) 7.8 (8th) 1.6 7.1 (9th) Mariners
BULLPEN (xRA) 0.7 (14th) -3.8 1.0 (13th) Athletics
OVERALL (RAA) 3.9 (14th) 9.4 15.5 (8th) ATHLETICS

Well that was a bad two weeks of Mariners’ baseball for me to miss as the M’s went 8-4 and climbed back to the edge of contention. They hadn’t been as bad as their record back in late April so some regression in the win-loss column is not surprising. If only they could beat the Astros as other teams do they could be above that .500 plateau right now.

Batter PA P/PA Slash line nBB K (sw) 1B/2B/3B/HR Sw- Ct+ Qual+
K Seager* 48 4.1 .239/.250/.370 1 14 (10) 8 / 1 / 1 / 1 92 102 81
M Morse 42 3.8 .216/.310/.459 5 10 (7) 5 / 0 / 0 / 3 115 94 83
K Morales^ 40 3.8 .250/.350/.306 4 6 (6) 7 / 2 / 0 / 0 98 96 91
D Ackley* 38 4.3 .257/.316/.343 3 7 (3) 8 / 0 / 0 / 1 75 108 83
J Bay 36 4.1 .276/.389/.552 6 7 (6) 4 / 2 / 0 / 2 81 91 80
M Saunders* 36 4.3 .267/.389/.600 6 11 (7) 4 / 1 / 0 / 3 85 92 144
J Smoak^ 34 3.8 .286/.412/.393 6 7 (6) 5 / 3 / 0 / 0 83 106 116
J Montero 28 3.0 .200/.286/.520 3 6 (5) 2 / 0 / 1 / 2 103 87 122
R Andino 24 3.4 .182/.292/.227 2 6 (2) 3 / 1 / 0 / 0 92 111 87
E Chavez* 23 3.1 .273/.261/.273 0 5 (5) 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 110 95 102
B Ryan 20 3.6 .118/.250/.118 3 3 (3) 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 121 100 104
K Shoppach 20 3.4 .235/.350/.353 3 7 (5) 2 / 2 / 0 / 0 98 76 28

The above table neatly captures how the hitters did while I was away since I limit it to the last 14 days only. I love being able to catch up over a marginally relevant sample size instead of just a game or two. I do not love Kyle Seager’s 14 strikeouts and one walk but I note that his swing and contact rates are still fine and relax.

It’s especially pleasing to see a good K:BB ratio out of Justin Smoak. That’s actually what I primarily look for out of Smoak, not home runs. First baseman are typically thought of more as the mashers, the Mike Morse types, but Smoak never showed a track record like that.

It’s been mentioned many times that Smoak does not seem particularly strong and that certainly seems true. But I don’t believe that dooms him to being useless. What he did show as a prospect was good on base skills and he was liked for his defense coming up. If he can recover that sheen and turn into a middle class John Olerud type, that would be perfectly acceptable and genuinely stellar after what we’ve seen the last couple years.

A guy who is supernaturally strong is Jesus Montero. I wonder if the coaches can convince him that he doesn’t need to swing so aggressively because he can use his strength to punish balls even without hitting them in the pull sweet spot. In other words, focus more on contact, Jesus. Leverage your strength. You don’t need to compensate by trying to pull everything.

Batter PA P/PA Slash line nBB SO (sw) 1B/2B/3B/HR Sw- Ct+ Qual+
J Donaldson 57 4.5 .306/.421/.510 8 13 (8) 9 / 4 / 0 / 2 98 98 115
S Smith* 54 4.4 .208/.236/.302 1 17 (13) 8 / 2 / 0 / 1 101 96 92
J Lowrie^ 53 4.2 .178/.302/.222 8 4 (3) 6 / 2 / 0 / 0 89 114 121
Y Cespedes 52 3.8 .244/.308/.511 5 15 (13) 6 / 1 / 1 / 3 108 90 114
A Rosales 47 3.5 .310/.396/.476 5 10 (7) 8 / 4 / 0 / 1 81 95 99
B Moss* 45 3.8 .263/.378/.474 7 14 (14) 6 / 2 / 0 / 2 123 82 128
D Norris 39 4.3 .176/.282/.206 5 11 (8) 5 / 1 / 0 / 0 74 104 110
J Reddick* 34 4.4 .111/.265/.148 6 8 (6) 2 / 1 / 0 / 0 102 101 106
J Jaso* 34 4.1 .296/.471/.333 7 4 (4) 7 / 1 / 0 / 0 78 109 99
E Sogard* 27 3.1 .192/.222/.192 1 4 (2) 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 109 120 95
C Crisp^ 21 4.1 .222/.333/.333 3 1 (0) 2 / 2 / 0 / 0 71 117 79

The A’s have been a good hitting team so far this season but have struggled of late with an 88 wRC+ over the last two weeks even though they’ve held baseball’s highest walk rate over that period. They just narrowly edged out the Mariners in that regard who have walked in 10% of their plate appearances to Oakland’s 10.2%.

The Athletics are following in the footsteps of other teams and platooning John Jaso against left-handed pitchers. He has faced a righty 97 times to just 11 lefties. In those 11 plate appearances against a lefty this season, Jaso is 3-for-9 with a walk and 0 strikeouts. Just awful.

Oh, and Jaso is currently on pace for a 2 WAR season.

MARINERS ΔMs ATHLETICS EDGE
INFIELD 3.2 (12th) 4.5 -16.6 (30th) Mariners
OUTFIELD 3.8 (13th) 4.2 5.7 (11th) Athletics
RBBIP 0.297 (10th) -.009 0.318 (23rd) Mariners
OVERALL 7.0 (8th) 8.7 -10.9 (26th) MARINERS

One area that my defensive numbers do not cover that more advanced systems like DRS and UZR do cover is in measuring throwing arms. I am strictly attempting to measure how often batted balls are turned into outs. I think that’s the most stable and robust measurement for team defense, but I’m aware it’s not comprehensive.

The Mariners have not been particularly strong in the throwing runners out/preventing runners from advancing department, so I’d temper your excitement over their defensive rankings above somewhat.

10 MAY 19:10 – HISASHI IWAKUMA vs DAN STRAILY

11 MAY 18:10 – BRANDON MAURER vs JARROD PARKER

Brandon Maurer’s change up is really bad. The above is the visual representation of Dave’s note on Maurer a week ago. Maurer has struggled mightily against left-handed hitters this season and it’s easy to see why when he’s only been able to effectively use a fastball and slider.

The Athletics can and likely will run out a lineup consisting of 5-6 left-handed hitters against Maurer. Brandon is going to have to perform significantly better with his change up otherwise he will be ripe for destruction facing such a lineup.

12 MAY 13:10 – JOE SAUNDERS* vs TOMMY MILONE*

I didn’t expect Joe Saunders to be a huge asset for the team, and I don’t think anyone did, but I certainly expected better than what he’s provided thus far. By practically every measure, Saunders has been awful this season, but is that from a deterioration in his skill set or is perhaps just a bad run?

Saunders’ pitch speeds aren’t down and his overall strike zone numbers are in line with his established past so it doesn’t appear that he’s fighting an injury or has lost his control. The rates that worry me are his batted ball numbers, specifically hitters have been teeing off for line drives and lots of pulled fly balls, and his elevated contact rate.

The contact rate increase has come entirely on pitches swung at outside the strike zone which suggests that Saunders is possibly suffering from a step down in the movement or deception of his pitches. He’s fooling hitters less often. Without a reversion in that, it’ll be hard for Saunders to correct the currently miserable strikeout to walk ratio. It bears monitoring.

Reliever BF Str+ nBB Ct- K(sw) GB+ HR Qual- LI
B Beavan 48 100 4 98 8 (6) 94 2 104 0.5
C Capps 45 102 2 96 13 (11) 60 3 120 1.2
T Wilhelmsen 41 117 1 98 10 (7) 98 0 123 1.5
H Noesi 39 103 2 107 6 (4) 51 0 125 0.3
O Perez* 29 95 4 80 8 (7) 93 0 96 1.3
Y Medina 28 94 3 96 10 (6) 151 0 41 0.3
C Furbush* 24 100 3 77 12 (9) 142 0 79 1.2

Hector Noesi has been surprisingly tolerable as a reliever. He isn’t pitching any quicker though.

Reliever BF Str+ nBB Ct- K(sw) GB+ HR Qual- LI
E Scribner 57 100 4 113 7 (4) 99 3 87 0.4
C Resop 56 90 10 110 6 (2) 96 1 140 0.5
J Blevins* 51 102 0 100 12 (12) 76 1 90 1.1
R Cook 46 106 3 103 12 (10) 110 0 105 1.3
P Neshek 46 109 4 92 6 (5) 50 1 126 0.3
G Balfour 40 96 3 95 12 (11) 54 1 170 1.8
S Doolittle* 36 115 3 90 11 (10) 93 2 76 1.1
J Chavez 21 106 1 98 3 (3) 107 0 59 0.1
B Anderson* 20 103 1 100 5 (4) 129 0 65 2.6

Comments

13 Responses to “The Mariners have Drifted Back to the Middle”

  1. dgood on May 10th, 2013 12:38 pm

    This question has probably been asked before, but I haven’t seen the answer. Why do the pitcher graphs start at -2z as opposed to starting at 0 and going up and down? Is the baseline average or the is -2z representative of replacement level?

  2. Matthew Carruth on May 10th, 2013 12:53 pm

    @dgood, because most pitch ratings are going to be close to 0 (it’s the mean after all) and therefore lots of the graphs would be a bunch of empty space and the bars close to the mean would be difficult to see.

    For example, Jarrod Parker’s Strike% bar on his slider (the yellow) is very close to -2z and the bar isn’t very visible. I wanted to avoid that as much as possible.

    In other words, it’s simply a presentation decision.

  3. stevemotivateir on May 10th, 2013 1:21 pm

    Well, I’m just glad we’re playing the A’s now, while they have several key players on the DL.

  4. GLS on May 10th, 2013 1:36 pm

    Smoak should be stronger though. Almost nothing gets written on baseball blogs or mainstream media about strength and conditioning practices for players. Though I don’t know it for a certainty, I suspect that Smoak could benefit from some dedicated strength training. With his frame at 6’4″ and his age, he ought to be one seriously strong dude.

  5. stevemotivateir on May 10th, 2013 3:25 pm

    ^Smoak has supposedly been working on just that over the last two offseasons, to no avail.

    But there’s more to it than that. He simply doesn’t hit well, or know how to hit. He doesn’t find the gaps or the corners, yet alone the fence.

    Part of it may be Wedge expecting him to kill the ball and failing to recognize he doesn’t have the strength to do so. But the results haven’t been good, regardless of the reason(s).

  6. Choo on May 10th, 2013 3:37 pm

    Despite his raw strength, Smoak’s hands/bat have always looked slow. It’s difficult to prove without bat speed data, but when you see a smaller player, like McCutchen for example, generating consistent power with quick hands, bat speed, balance, and the ability to adjust mid-pitch and square a variety of different offerings, it’s obvious that “weight room strong” doesn’t always translate to “baseball strong.”

  7. PackBob on May 10th, 2013 3:44 pm

    Smoak may be physically strong but have a swing that doesn’t generate the type of power one might expect, even though he looks like he should hit the ball a long way. A player with less strength but good technique can hit a ball farther than a player with more strength and poor technique. It may be that Smoak’s swing negates some of his strength.

  8. stevemotivateir on May 10th, 2013 3:45 pm

    Beefing up is pointless if you can’t apply it to your game.

  9. Celadus on May 10th, 2013 3:55 pm

    Choo:

    That’s for sure. Bat speed and torque are so important. Witness Hank Aaron or even better Jimmy Wynn (The Toy Cannon), 5-9, 170 (and slimmer than that when he came up). Lifetime ISO of .186, peak ISO at .246 in 1967 when it wasn’t especially easy to get ISOs in the .200s.

    At the same age as he, probably a lot of us could have beaten him in arm wrestling. Smoak undoubtedly could have. Unless one refers to all of these things as a component of baseball strength, physical strength is not an issue with Smoak.

  10. stevemotivateir on May 10th, 2013 6:50 pm

    Yeah, I would argue that physical strength IS an issue with Smoak. Peguero has strength. Morse has strength. Morales has strength. Even Montero has strength. Does Smoak really measure up to any of them? I don’t think so.

    I’m sure some will argue that he doesn’t need to be as strong as Peguero or Morse, for example. That is true, however, he tries to hit like he has that kind of power and the results speak for themselves.

    There are flaws in nearly every aspect of his approach. It may be that he lacks leg strength, but that certainly wouldn’t be his only issue.

  11. GLS on May 10th, 2013 7:08 pm

    On the strength thing, I don’t KNOW that it would help him to get stronger. I suspect that’s the case, but I don’t really know because I don’t have the information. I do know that when I look at the guy, I don’t see the frame of someone that’s been doing fundamental strength training, which makes me suspicious that the dude needs to do some squats and deadlifts and a few other things. On the other hand, that could just be his shape. He might already be strong as hell. There are lots of super-strong guys out there that don’t look especially impressive. But, it may be the case that this is an area that he could improve in, and if it is, then he should do it. Most of the time, stronger is better. Stronger may not help him make better contact, but when he does hit the ball, it should make it go faster and farther.

  12. SonOfZavaras on May 10th, 2013 8:25 pm

    Raul Ibanez with a veteran-grit tater. Yay! 5-0 lead. Yay 2.0!

    Talent-wise, I still think Iwakuma’s a #3-#4 starter.

    But, mentally… I’m starting to think he’s a #1- reading their stance and doing a great job of keeping them off-balance with really subtle variances on all his pitches. And those qualities make up for a lot.

    I’m convinced all these goofy swings I see from batters against him isn’t just their own out-thinking themselves.

    Re: Smoak’s power:

    Well, there’s muscular strength via mass and then there’s muscle efficiency- tensile strength.

    Baseball players probably have a lot of the latter.

    It’s a funny thing…I knew this one guy in high school who couldn’t bench 150 (and he weighed about 165)…but he could wallop the bejeesus (400′+) out of a pitch he got ahold of.

    On the converse side of “baseball strength”, the strongest throwing arm I ever encountered personally was from a guy who was 5’8″ and 145 pounds- after a heavy meal.

    I think the answer as to why Smoak doesn’t hit for the power we’d expect from a tank build probably lies in that- lack of muscle efficiency.

    Just my thoughts, though.

  13. SonOfZavaras on May 10th, 2013 8:32 pm

    The King and The Machine and then three days to dream….

    The Machine. I like it, too. I have actually stated I like a Rick Rizzs idea! Wow, unusual day.

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