Well Now What The [Heck] Is This
In recent years past, the Mariners have had some terrible team offenses. It was kind of the identity — the Mariners were able to prevent runs, but they also prevented too many of their own runs, and so in the end they were not good. Over the offseason, the Mariners prioritized adding good hitters, in order to improve the offense. And they prioritized adding veteran hitters, to take some of the pressure off the younger guys. They felt bad for having forced young hitters into the middle of the lineup, so they went after talented veterans to relieve the psychological burden. It follows that the Mariners figured veterans would be better able to handle the stress than rookies and new guys. Veterans have been around the block, and so on and so on.
[Morse and Morales are] expected to handle the bulk of duties in the Nos. 3 and 4 lineup spots, taking the pressure off younger hitters by bumping them further back in the order.
All kidding aside, Morse says there’s a big difference hitting in the middle of the order compared to other places.
Morales, who debuted in 2006 with the Angels, feels there’s a confidence level required to stay in the middle of the lineup.
“In those situations, sometimes you rarely get to see a fastball. They are going to pitch you different and they are going to pitch you tough. You really have to relax and not try to do too much,” Morse said. “It’s tougher when you are young. It’s a big role and it’s a tough role. They had to learn the hard way.”
On Sunday, Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales were bumped down in the Mariners’ lineup. Morales is batting fourth, after batting third all season. Morse is batting fifth, after batting fourth all season. What’s the deal? We turn to our fearless leader:
“I’m playing around with it a little bit,” Wedge said. “I still stand by the fact that Morales and Morse are just trying to do too much. They know they’re the guys here and I think with that sometimes you put a little too much pressure on yourself to do too much. You see both of them chasing more than they should.”
Morales and Morse were supposed to be stable, veteran additions, immune to trying to do too much in response to batting in the middle. Now, in Eric Wedge’s estimation, they’ve been trying to do too much in response to batting in the middle. It’s not that I don’t believe there’s some difference between batting in the middle and batting somewhere else. It’s not that I don’t believe veterans benefit from their experience. But I think this speaks for itself. In the Mariners’ own words, the experienced veterans aren’t doing what they were brought in to do. Wedge thinks they’re pressing, just like he thought the young guys were pressing.
Yet, furthermore, consider the evidence. Wedge thinks Morales and Morse are chasing too much. Morales has swung at 30% of pitches out of the zone, below his PITCHf/x average of 32%. Morse has swung at 35% of pitches out of the zone, right on his PITCHf/x average of 35%. Neither Kendrys Morales nor Michael Morse are the disciplined sort. They’re the slugging sort, and they’re likely to finish with an ugly ratio of walks to strikeouts. That was easily predictable coming in, and Wedge can’t reasonably allow himself to be frustrated by the veterans doing what they’ve always done. Morse is going to strike out. He strikes out a lot. Morales isn’t going to walk. He doesn’t walk a lot.
So Wedge thinks the veterans are pressing, which would be funny, given the whole idea behind their acquisitions. Evidence suggests they might not be, which would call into question Eric Wedge’s ability to evaluate who is and is not actually pressing. Which would make us reconsider seasons past. As is always the case with baseball posts like this, we have to acknowledge on some level that the guys in the clubhouse have a better idea than the guys like us. Wedge knows these players, and he has a better idea of what they’re going through. But where Wedge has an advantage in terms of that sort of information, we have an advantage in terms of other sorts of information, and we also don’t get wrapped up in generally discardable baseball bromides. Morales already has a home run today. Sometimes good players do well. Sometimes they don’t. Most of the time, there’s not any reason.