First Half In Review: Passing Out The Grades

Jeff Sullivan · July 18, 2013 at 8:08 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As we wait out the remainder of the MLB All-Star Break, the Seattle Mariners sit at 43-52, 13 games out of first place but just two games behind the Angels, which would be encouraging to someone who’s been out of touch since being deployed overseas by the military in the middle of spring training. People like to think of the break as the season’s halfway point, and for the Mariners that’s exactly true as they’ll shortly resume their ordinary 190-game campaign. But before we all focus on what’s to come, we have here an opportunity to reflect on what’s already happened, and for purposes of providing a quick summary, below you’re going to find a completely subjective and arbitrary team report card, broken down player by player.

One thing you could do is go to FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference and look up how the team’s players have done, in case you don’t know and are curious. There’s no reason at all to trust these assigned letter grades, because the grades are just lousy inconsistent substitutes for the meaningful statistics themselves, but I’ve done this every year for as long as I can remember and when you have traditions you can’t just up and buck them, if I’ve learned anything from Major League Baseball. You need to do things the way you’ve always done them, and I’ve always done stupid midseason report cards, so here’s a stupid midseason report card, featuring every player who’s played on the 2013 Mariners. It’s split between position players and pitchers, and if you want to argue any of these grades, be my guest, metaphorically. Don’t be my guest, literally, because I don’t want to have you. It’s nothing against you. Well yeah it is. I don’t know why I said it isn’t. Stay away from my apartment!

Report card to follow. The methodology behind each grade can be best summarized as “sure, why not.” Seriously though please don’t argue, if you want to argue take the time instead to think about what you were going to do. To think about what you were going to argue. Why? Just, why? We’re all dying.

POSITION PLAYERS

Alex Liddi: F
Liddi, of course, isn’t with the Mariners anymore, and he was traded for astonishingly little, which went to show how low his value had sunk. Liddi did get his final Mariners plate appearance on June 17, in a blowout loss against the Angels. Facing Dane De La Rosa, Liddi swung at the first pitch and missed. Then he swung at the second pitch and missed. Then he swung at the third pitch and missed. As a Mariner, Liddi died doing what he loved: striking out. The only thing I can conclude from his statistical record is that he loved striking out.

Brad Miller: B
Following a really bad comedian on stage isn’t good, because the crowd is going to be unpleasant and difficult to tap into. Miller’s bat at shortstop got to follow Brendan Ryan’s bat at shortstop and that isn’t at all like following a really bad comedian on stage.

Brandon Bantz: F
You did it, kid! You got to the majors for reasons out of your control and you immediately made outs! Bantz was deemed an insufficient substitute for Jesus Sucre, who also wasn’t on any radars in February.

Brendan Ryan: D-
I’m getting ready to say goodbye to maybe my favorite not-good player of all time. Ryan made the impossible look possible, and in the other part of his game he made the possible look impossible. It’s only impossible for you, Brendan Ryan. You and apparently Dustin Ackley.

Carlos Peguero: B
Apparently Carlos Peguero hit a home run?

Carlos Triunfel: F
Carlos Triunfel did not hit a home run. But he did hit a hit, twice.

Dustin Ackley: F+
Despite promising signs in Tacoma, in the majors Ackley still looks like an emotionless pile of crap. Which is one way you could describe all piles of crap, to be fair. It’s an F+ because Ackley agreed to change positions and also because this way Ackley stands out more, and we need to more properly and deeply appreciate how horrible this has gotten.

Endy Chavez: D+
Endy Chavez has batted 234 times this season as a Mariner. This is like when Chris Jakubauskas threw 93 innings in 2009. On any given day, you’re liable to look at the numbers and think “what the hell?”

Franklin Gutierrez: C
Franklin Gutierrez is our lives and our happiness. Our happiness is fleeting, our lives promising but unpredictable. Make plans if you must. You must, sometimes. But accept the extent to which you’re not in control. You don’t control your destiny. Your destiny is out of control.

Henry Blanco: D+
The Mariners have a baseball player on the team specifically to instruct another baseball player on the team. The Mariners also have a coaching staff! Allegedly.

Jason Bay: C+
Jason Bay has a 106 OPS+. Imagine if Chone Figgins went somewhere and had a 106 OPS+. Injury problems, but also a 106 OPS+. It would be weird if you ran into a Mets fan who really hates the Mariners, but then, it would not.

Jesus Montero: F
And, when Jesus Montero gets suspended, he’ll be more valuable to the Mariners than he has been as a participating player. Jesus Montero is 23 years old and I think I’m actually, genuinely more optimistic about Carlos Peguero’s chances of putting it together.

Jesus Sucre: D-
Jesus Sucre has a higher letter grade than Jesus Montero.

Justin Smoak: B
There are truly promising indications that Justin Smoak doesn’t suck anymore, and that’s more than enough for me. Dave and I disagree a little bit about Smoak’s value right now, but he’s pulled himself up from replacement level, and he might actually turn out to be a league-average regular. A league-average regular first baseman! At one point you’re ready to give up on a guy, and at the next point you have a guy who’s no longer a troubling reminder of the time you wasted Cliff Lee. I mean, he’s still a reminder, but he’s not quite as troubling.

Kelly Shoppach: D+
Basically Mike Zunino plus a decade. The Mariners didn’t much care for Shoppach. Uh oh.

Kendrys Morales: B-
“The legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter the Mariners have been missing,” we’d say, if it weren’t for Raul Ibanez doing Kendrys Morales’ job. I wonder how Morales feels about that. You have to consider other people, Raul Ibanez.

Kyle Seager: A
Since the start of last season, Kyle Seager has been worth about as much WAR as Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Gomez. He also already has a higher WAR in 2013 than he had in 2012. Dustin Ackley might suck, but then Kyle Seager has turned into what Dustin Ackley might’ve become, so. If Seager can sustain this a little longer we might have to acknowledge that he’s a star position player, on the Mariners, and it’s probably high time he be engaged in conversations about a long-term contract.

Michael Morse: C
Michael Morse has been fragile and his defense has been bad and he hasn’t gotten on base a whole lot, but there’s no way the Mariners could’ve seen that coming.

Michael Saunders: D
Before the year, Dave pointed out Saunders’ mediocre projections, and I noted, confidently, that the projection systems didn’t know about the changes Saunders made to his swing in order to make him more successful at the plate.

Mike Zunino: D+
Mike Zunino has a 66 OPS+ with good defense. As a Mariner, Jeff Cirillo had a 64 OPS+ with good defense. In Zunino’s defense, Cirillo was ready to be playing in the major leagues.

Nick Franklin: B
Franklin right now seems to be going through a bit of a slump, which might have to do with his knee or which might have to do with pitcher adjustments, but overall he’s been good for the equivalent of a quarter of a season and now this might be the Mariners’ second baseman of the future. And the present. Obviously of the present. No matter where Franklin goes from here, one thing’s for sure: if he ever gets hit by a pitch in the helmet, someone’s going to have to tell him so that he knows he can go to first base.

Raul Ibanez: 6
what

Robert Andino: F
Remember when this was a thing that was happening? Remember when people deliberately wrote blog posts about trading Trayvon Robinson for Robert Andino? I can’t remember a single thing Andino did. Did Andino do anything?

PITCHERS

Aaron Harang: C-
Aaron Harang has Doug Fister’s strikeout rate, and Doug Fister’s walk rate, and Dylan Axelrod’s ERA. I don’t know what a Dylan Axelrod is but its ERA sucks.

Blake Beavan: D+
For about 15 minutes, not altogether that long ago, I thought about researching and writing a post about how Blake Beavan’s strikeout rate was up as a reliever. Then I read the Wikipedia page about Hieronymus Bosch.

Bobby LaFromboise: D
But he’s not from Boise. Great first impression to make. Everybody likes a liar.

Brandon Maurer: F
Some might say it’s not Maurer’s fault he wound up in the position he was put in, starting in the majors before he was ready, but then it kind of was.

Carter Capps: D
In a way, to me this is the opposite of Raul Ibanez, in that I just don’t understand. Okay, I understand how Capps might have some struggles against lefties. But I don’t get how Capps has Brandon League’s ERA. By the way Brandon League has been really terrible, for several millions of dollars.

Charlie Furbush: B
Like if Chris Sale were a reliever, and a lot worse. Furbush has a lower rate of contact allowed than Yu Darvish. I know that Furbush is a short-inning reliever while Darvish is a long-inning starter, but when you watch Darvish it doesn’t make sense how he ever gets hit, so I make his contact rate the threshold of awe. Thus, Furbush’s ability to miss bats is awesome. In between, there are walks.

Danny Farquhar: D+
Capps with more strikeouts, way fewer home runs, and a higher ERA. There are the makings here of a truly quality shutdown bullpen. There are also the makings of an inedible stew. You’d think the recipe would be simple to follow and get correct but it’s apparently not.

Erasmo Ramirez: C-
Ramirez could pitch 200 innings for ten consecutive seasons and if he needed Tommy John surgery in the 11th I’d be all like “I KNEW IT!” But he’s a good starting pitcher right now, and this season would look different had he been healthy out of camp. Underrated blow to the chances.

Felix Hernandez: A
So by many metrics Felix is having the best season of his career. In that way Felix is kind of like a fine wine, except that the art of appreciating him isn’t complete and utter bullshit.

Hector Noesi: C
Well, I typed his name without sweating and getting the shakes, so I guess that means he’s been better.

Hisashi Iwakuma: A-
Like a more polished, proven, healthy Erasmo Ramirez. I really like Erasmo Ramirez. I like Erasmo Ramirez so much I made him the subject of my quip about Hisashi Iwakuma. You know Erasmo Ramirez’s changeup? That’s such a good pitch that he throws. His equivalent of the Iwakuma splitter.

Jeremy Bonderman: D
In retrospect there was literally no reason to think that was going to work out.

Joe Saunders: C
A friend visits and opens a cupboard, looking for a snack. He finds and eats the last plain, unflavored rice cake. “Hey, Joe, you’re out of rice cakes,” he shouts upstairs. “No, check literally every other cupboard,” Saunders responds.

Kameron Loe: FF
As a Mariner, Loe allowed six home runs in 6.2 innings. As a Cub, he subsequently allowed three home runs in 8.1 innings. Never doubt the power of regression to the mean.

Lucas Luetge: D-
I think it’s instructive to recognize that Lucas Luetge is considered a Rule 5 Draft success story.

Oliver Perez: A
When I checked late last week, no left-handed pitcher had a higher strikeout rate against right-handed batters. Also Oliver Perez shuts down left-handed batters. Bay and Perez. Bay and Perez. Perez could actually bring the Mariners back a legitimate prospect, and then one day maybe that prospect could develop into a worse and less valuable player than Oliver Perez.

Stephen Pryor: C
Probably the Mariners’ next closer, so start thinking about nicknames and entry music. I’m thinking “Steve” and the theme to Animaniacs.

Tom Wilhelmsen: D+
Remember when Tom Wilhelmsen was suddenly good completely out of nowhere? Like, he was not good in the majors, then he was not good in the minors, then he was really good in the majors? Maybe that last part never happened. Like, maybe we imagined all of it, and maybe the statistics are only reflecting our imaginations because we have even less of an understanding of how the universe works than we thought. I don’t know where this paragraph is going, which gives it something in common with Tom Wilhelmsen’s fastball.

Yoervis Medina: B
All these years, I wondered why the Mariners insisted on keeping Yoervis Medina on the 40-man roster. Now I understand, because all along, in Medina, the Mariners saw a guy who could one day throw hard and walk too many dudes to be consistently successful. But then, given Medina’s ability to keep the ball on the ground, maybe he’s the best pitcher in the bullpen? The important thing is I’d rather watch Medina than Brandon League and I know that’s not the first time I’ve referred to Brandon League here but seriously the Dodgers gave him a three-year contract worth $22.5 million and he has 16 strikeouts. Hector Noesi has 16 strikeouts. And fewer walks than Brandon League.

Comments

37 Responses to “First Half In Review: Passing Out The Grades”

  1. Typical Idiot Fan on July 18th, 2013 8:29 pm

    You haven’t lost your touch, Mr. Sullivan.

  2. sexymarinersfan on July 18th, 2013 8:34 pm

    Lmao!! 6? How come Felix didn’t get a 6? WTF?! What is the current grading value of 6? Never mind(lightbulb) Great right up Jeff!!

  3. Thievery on July 18th, 2013 8:51 pm

    Jeff’s quizzically quixotic penmanship against the typically-morose backdrop of USSM still strikes me as spuriously out of step, like staring down Godzilla in a tuxedo. But I remain thankful, nonetheless…

  4. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2013 9:27 pm

    “Michael Morse has been fragile and his defense has been bad and he hasn’t gotten on base a whole lot, but there’s no way the Mariners could’ve seen that coming.”

    (spit take)
    So lovingly morose, Mr. Sullivan… Like a diehard fan should always be. I laughed out loud– with you.

    (For the record- and not arguing, just sayin’- I’m higher on Endy Chavez than you, if only because he kept the outfield from becoming a vacuous black hole for most of the 1st half. He plugged the hole in a huge, fragile dyke built out of the bodies of Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, and Franklin Gutierez.

    So, y’know… C-)

  5. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2013 9:35 pm

    Also, you left out Carlos Peguero’s OTHER grades… It should read:

    B
    A
    D

  6. HighlightsAt11 on July 18th, 2013 9:37 pm

    Are either Ty Kelly or Abraham Almonte serious OF prospects for the Mariners? Or are they likely forever AAAA?

    And what’s the scoop on Maurer? Appeared to perform well the first several games after he was sent down to Tacoma, but the last six games not so well.

  7. Breadbaker on July 18th, 2013 9:46 pm

    I would think Bobby LaFromBoise should play for either the Dodgers or Angels. After he returns to the Northwest League Hawks, of course.

  8. evolvingcaveman on July 18th, 2013 10:31 pm

    I planned on logging on and lavishing praise on Mr Sullivan as my favorite mariners writer by huge, huge amounts with this article as yet another example. But then I remember that one podcast where he and matthew admitted they would prefer to watch playoff hockey over the current mariners and the hurt was so shocking and deep that I can’t call you my favorite mariners writer by huge amounts anymore. You’re just barely my favorite now Jeff. Barely.

  9. Gormogon on July 18th, 2013 10:38 pm

    So they’re selling absinthe again in the Pac NW, eh?

    Classic, Sullivan. I LOL’ed about 5 times, and I’ve never deigned to LOL on a “blog”.

  10. Don Money on July 18th, 2013 10:44 pm

    Endy a D? Not in my book! I also recall Henry’s grand slam that got Felix one of his ten victories. Me thinks you are a little harsh across the board.

  11. Westside guy on July 18th, 2013 10:47 pm

    A few bad riffs in homage to the master:

    Ol’ Charlie Furbush
    Misses bats better than Yu
    Between there are walks.

    Prodigal slugger
    Bad D, hurt, low OBP
    Who could foresee it?

    Young Michael Saunders
    He’s good! No – wait – bad again
    What the hell, Condor?

  12. ABP52380 on July 18th, 2013 10:55 pm

    Yeah, Endy a D is about the only thing I disagree with. Ibanez, hahahah.

  13. gopilots70 on July 18th, 2013 11:03 pm

    I totally agree with Endy’s rating this year, even though for some reason I like him. (Batting average only still influences, as well as long ago speed)

    What I really enjoy about the rating is that from about the last six weeks onward it seems like every time he comes to the plate, Mr. Sims, echoed by Mr. Blowers, raves about how valuable he has been to the team and wonders aloud where we would be without him.

  14. Slippery Elmer on July 18th, 2013 11:44 pm

    Jeff Sullivan: A

    Fantastic work.

  15. roosevelt on July 18th, 2013 11:55 pm

    Great piece.

    The only objection is Noesi rating the same C as Joe Saunders. Noesi, nice arm but suspect mind.

  16. Jeff Sullivan on July 19th, 2013 8:41 am

    By FanGraphs Endy Chavez has a -0.7 WAR, and by Baseball-Reference he has a -0.6 WAR.

  17. spuuky on July 19th, 2013 8:57 am

    What is the grade for Eric Wedge?

  18. Beniitec on July 19th, 2013 9:51 am

    6? Please explain. Thanks.

  19. bat guano on July 19th, 2013 10:06 am

    How about grading the front office? This was very amusing, but THAT would truly be the stuff of comedy and pathos.

  20. diderot on July 19th, 2013 10:14 am

    OK, sure Jeff, pull out your little number-thingies to justify your Endy grade.
    All I know is when a fly ball is hit to him, I don’t hold my breath.
    Shouldn’t that be worth a little grade inflation?

  21. stevemotivateir on July 19th, 2013 10:18 am

    Also, you left out Carlos Peguero’s OTHER grades… It should read:

    B
    A
    D

    Now that was funny!

    I disagree with a lot of Jeff’s grades, especially with the outfielders (a ‘C’ seems high for Morse), but I’d be curious what grade he’d give Wedge and Z.

    Personally, I’d give Eric a solid D and Jack a D-.

  22. bookbook on July 19th, 2013 11:00 am

    Endy’s TSAR is much higher – probably 2+

    Team Specific Above Replacement levels seem unnecessary, but the M’s wouldn’t go out and get another replacement level OF. No sirree. They’d play Morse in CF. on one leg.

  23. bluemoonking on July 19th, 2013 11:12 am

    After looking at this generous mid-season assessment of the 2013 Mariners, is there any doubt as what the fate should be of GMZ and Wedge?

  24. PackBob on July 19th, 2013 11:13 am

    All the young guys should have a “+” to indicate promise. All the stop-gap veterans should have a “-” to indicate future service time. Franklin Gutierrez should have a “+-”.

  25. jordan on July 19th, 2013 11:38 am

    I literally LOL’d at Ibanez’s summary.

  26. Kazinski on July 19th, 2013 12:47 pm

    The most perplexing thing about the Mariners this year is according to Fangraphs UZR, they are the worst fielding team in the majors. To an eye test they don’t look that bad, Morse and Ibanez excepted.

    There are some pretty strange anomalies even for Small Sample UZR, Saunders UZR/150 is about a + 35 in both LF and RF, but -19 in CF.

    So far UZR just hates Nick Franklin at 2nd at 17.6 UZR/150. But he looks at least as good as Ackley in the range department with twice the arm.

    Basically the only modestly positive fielding metrics are from Seagar and Zunino, everybody else ranges from neutral to massively negative.

  27. kaleyk on July 19th, 2013 1:06 pm

    “if he ever gets hit by a pitch in the helmet, someone’s going to have to tell him so that he knows he can go to first base.”

    ….That one had me rolling on the floor!

  28. msfanmike on July 19th, 2013 1:13 pm

    I have never been a big fan of the Oozer (UZR), but it certainly has its place and it probably deserves its own grade. As far as mostly unreliable defensive metrics are concerned, its an A+. As far as being a valuable statistic in and of itself, it belongs somehwere on the extreme left side of the meaty part of the curve IMO.

    It’s certianly better than having nothing, and its a gosh darn hoot of fun say out loud, but on a good day it’s a C-. On a bad day, it hates Nick Franklin.

  29. Westside guy on July 19th, 2013 1:18 pm

    To my eye, I haven’t thought Franklin was as good defensively as Ackley. It’s like… Jim Edmonds, the center fielder for the Cardinals a decade ago. He had all these spectacular diving catches on Sportscenter… which he had to make because he didn’t get good jumps on the ball. Contrast him to Guti, who almost never has to make spectacular diving catches because he just gets there and makes it look easy.

  30. Typical Idiot Fan on July 19th, 2013 1:18 pm

    6? Please explain. Thanks.

    Naw.

  31. Westside guy on July 19th, 2013 1:19 pm

    … But Franklin hits and Ackley does not, which I think predisposes us to favorably interpret Franklin’s fielding.

  32. Eastside Suds on July 19th, 2013 2:20 pm

    Two things that I have noticed when comparing the 2B tandem this season. One player makes the spectacular plays once in a while, while the other is mostly a “steady Eddy” on routine GB’s with the inability to make the ESPN highlight film.

    The other difference is that one of the 2nd sackers turn virtually every double play because of impressive arm strength. The other makes most double plays, but must receive the feed early and not have the runner bearing down hard on him.

    I, for one, have enjoyed watching one of these guys way more than the other and undoubtedly, the Mariner’s infield defense has improved accordingly due to turning many more DP’s.

  33. Westside guy on July 19th, 2013 2:34 pm

    Yeah, it’s pretty obvious people are giving Franklin defensive credit for not sucking offensively. :-D

    With a small sample size we obviously don’t know where it will stabilize. But defensive numbers, old or new, don’t support the narrative that Franklin is some sort of defensive wonder. What he’s done so far is not suck defensively, and hit well offensively (in June). Defensively so far the numbers, both old and new, say he’s not as good as Ackley.

  34. Kazinski on July 19th, 2013 3:55 pm

    Yes, I think we all realize that UZR has shortcomings, but both DRS and UZR agree that the M’s are horrid defensively this year. And it isn’t just all Raul and Morse. The outfield collectively is -32.7 (Morse and Ibanez are -15.2 of that) and the rest of the team is at -11.3.

    If you take out Morse and Ibanez out of the UZR calculation and you assume neutral replacesments, the Mariners go from 30th in defense to 28th. Not much of a difference.

    As kind of a smell test on the UZR numbers I subtracted RPG from FIP, with the idea that backing FIP out of runs would = FDP (Fielding dependent Pitching), or actually just Fielding. Surprisingly that yields a modest -0.57 correlation with UZR, and the Mariners rank 26th. By that measure the Mariners defense gives up .5 runs per game, but by UZR they give up .46 runs per game.

  35. BillyJive on July 19th, 2013 6:56 pm

    I only wish my report cards were this funny.

  36. Slats on July 20th, 2013 6:25 pm

    Condor!

  37. greentunic on July 21st, 2013 1:36 am

    Mom: Jesus, you got an F on your report card!
    Jesus: Ya, but I got hosed in “Bio”
    Mom: No you didn’t, it says you got an F because you cheated!

    Thanks for the applause everybody!

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