Middle Infield Adjustment Watch

Jeff Sullivan · August 16, 2013 at 10:18 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Obviously, right now, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are kind of growing together. They’re not literally growing together, but they’re *developing together* as Mariners middle infielders. When they’re going well, they look like foundation pieces for the next good Mariners team. When they’re not going well, it’s no biggie, they’re rookies, they’re supposed to slump, they’ll build character and be better for it in the long run. Not a whole lot of downside with rooting for young players. It’s all either good news or no news, until you have a quality player or a player who’s too old to still be young and learning. Then it’s on the player for being an annoying bust, like Jeremy Reed. Jeremy Reed is 32 years old. Jacoby Ellsbury is 29.

Anyway, what the Mariners are doing is trying to figure out whether Miller and Franklin will make up next year’s middle infield. Clearly, the potential is there; clearly, there’s some work to be done, on Franklin’s offense and Miller’s defense. Given their somewhat similar backgrounds you could call them the Double Play Twins if that nickname didn’t carry an Indian curse. Instead you can just call them Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, and in order to proceed, I’ll note that Miller debuted almost exactly a month after Franklin did.

From his debut through June 28, Franklin batted 117 times in 29 games and 27 starts. From his debut through July 30, Miller batted 116 times in 27 games and 25 starts. We’ll refer to these as Phase One. All their games and plate appearances since? We’ll refer to those as Phase Two. Let’s dig just a little bit into adjustment periods and whatnot.


For his first stretch, Franklin saw about 69% of what Brooks Baseball classifies as “hard” pitches. So, fastballs, basically. He batted .302/.368/.500, with 15% strikeouts. He had 13 extra-base hits, and nine of them came off hard pitches.

For his first stretch, Miller saw about 68% hard pitches. He batted .240/.319/.394, with 17% strikeouts. Of his ten extra-base hits, five came off hard pitches.


For his second stretch, Franklin has seen about 61% hard pitches. He’s batted .193/.263/.366, with 34% strikeouts. Five of his six homers have come off hard stuff, and he’s hardly been able to touch the rest.

For his second stretch, Miller has seen about 57% hard pitches. He’s batted .266/.319/.484, with 16% strikeouts. He has three extra-base hits against hard stuff, and four extra-base hits against breaking stuff.


The short of it: Miller and Franklin have seen somewhat similar reductions in fastballs seen. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into league adjustments, and Franklin has an extra month of data, so the numbers mean only so much, but what we’re seeing is that Franklin is having a lot of trouble hitting against guys throwing him more bendy stuff, while Miller is handling it just fine. Franklin’s strikeout rate has doubled. Miller’s strikeout rate has stayed the same, and he hasn’t had to sit on heaters. Just based on this, pitchers have no reason yet to change the way they’re working against Franklin, but Miller has passed his tests.

If you want some Franklin optimism, Yasiel Puig went through a little ugly stretch where he couldn’t hit any sliders, then he figured it out overnight and went back to being absolutely incredible. On the other hand, Nick Franklin isn’t Yasiel Puig. If you want some Miller realism, we’re looking at small samples and the league might still be learning him. It’s not like Miller is a known entity, and maybe they’ll discover a hole or two. Maybe he’ll hit a slump like Franklin’s current slump, and maybe he’ll get out of it and maybe he won’t. The future! Can’t tell it. Only know who’s done best recently, which is the best I can do.

Franklin’s been striking out for a while. He saw 64% hard stuff in July, and he’s seen 56% hard stuff in August. He struck out 36% of the time in July, and he’s struck out 29% of the time in August, which might be progress although the rest of his numbers really suck. If Miller had a strikeout phase, it came early — he struck out a quarter of the time through his first couple weeks. Since then he’s been something of a contact machine, tonight excepted, where an awesome lefty was on the mound. And Neal Cotts is also an awesome lefty.

Right now, Miller’s stock is higher. Right now, Miller looks like a legitimate starting shortstop for 2014. Used to be Franklin looked like a lot more of a sure thing, but they know what the problem is and they’re working on it. That should fix his troubles, unless it doesn’t, because not all troubles can just be fixed and smoothed out at the highest level. You don’t need me to tell you it’s going to be a critical last month and a half, for both these guys. From Miller, I’d like to see fewer errors and maintained decent production. From Franklin, I’d like to see way fewer strikeouts. And from Dustin Ackley I’d like to see a home run and from the Mariners I’d like to see 41 consecutive wins. Don’t really care if it’s all because of Raul Ibanez. Grant a dying man’s wish, God*.

* we’re all dying, even you


26 Responses to “Middle Infield Adjustment Watch”

  1. Westside guy on August 17th, 2013 1:12 am

    There are times that I think Nick Franklin hasn’t realized that Dustin Ackley has struggled, because he almost seems to be following Dustin’s early career path – started out on fire, crashed after a bit, has an absurdly low swing rate in the zone (but with a significantly lower contact rate than Ackley manages).

    The strikeouts are what scare me, since that usually stabilizes very quickly. Hopefully he’ll be an exception to that.

  2. leftfield limey on August 17th, 2013 2:17 am

    Franklin’s stats for the major league are now very similar to his line for AAA last year. He adjusted and then dominated AAA this year. I am far more optimistic he will adjust again as he as shown he can do. His attitude also gives me hope.

  3. KW on August 17th, 2013 3:56 am

    So wouldn’t it be smart baseball for pitchers to start rookies off with the bendy stuff, instead of giving them two free months to hit fastballs?

  4. bookbook on August 17th, 2013 7:57 am

    It’s hard to throw bendy stuff

  5. californiamariner on August 17th, 2013 9:05 am

    On a more depressing note, I was just looking at fangraphs and Ackley has been worth -.8 WAR this year.

  6. Eastside Suds on August 17th, 2013 12:18 pm

    All these kids will go through growing pains and at different rates. Look at Smoak. He had several runs of growing pains. Many of which caused us to want him banished to AAA or worse.
    Remember that these kids have all been thrown into the fire. Most teams have 1, maybe 2 young prospects they throw to the wolves. We have had (in the past 3 seasons) Ackley, Seager, Smoak, Franklin, Miller, Zunino, Ramirez, Montero, Maurer and Capps among others. I can’t name a team that can match this except for Houston and Kansas City.
    Patience with the kids.

  7. Bremerton guy on August 17th, 2013 1:28 pm

    It’s weird that Jeremy Reed is only 32 years old. I looked it up on baseball-reference.com just to confirm, and sure enough …. And he’s been entirely out of professional baseball for two years. Weird.

  8. Westside guy on August 17th, 2013 2:09 pm

    The problem with drawing comparisons to guys like Smoak or Saunders is that the relative success they eventually achieved was very atypical. It’s not a good approach to look at what two people did while ignoring the ninety eight others who never turned it around in 1000+ at-bats. That’s the thing about baseball – all of these things are readily quantifiable and measurable. We KNOW how long it takes, with a high degree of certainty, for most players abilities to show up (or not show up).

    Please note I am NOT arguing directly about Nicky here. Franklin’s only had a small number of at bats and deserves MUCH more time to prove himself. But it is true that some stats tend to stabilize very quickly, and strikeout rate is one of them – so it’s something to keep an eye on. However his minor league numbers give hope that he’s not the strikeout machine he’s appeared to be lately.

  9. californiamariner on August 17th, 2013 3:08 pm

    At least we don’t have Starlin Castro. That has to be so depressing for Cubs fans. He’s posting a negative WAR after being a 2-3 win player in each of his first 3 seasons.

  10. Eastside Suds on August 17th, 2013 5:09 pm

    Seager heating up again. As good hitters do.

  11. Eastside Suds on August 17th, 2013 5:22 pm

    M’s have to be near the worst base running team in the league. 36 steals in 122 games 16 CS (69 %) and 3 picked off. Those are scary bad offensive running stats. ….okay, so Minnesota is slightly worse than we are. Bad Company!!

  12. SonOfZavaras on August 17th, 2013 5:48 pm

    David Murphy smiled pre-swing and teed off on that Felix pitch like he knew what pitch he was going to get.

    Is The King falling into predictable patterns?

  13. SonOfZavaras on August 17th, 2013 5:51 pm

    Good squeeze, now a perfect hit-and-run.

    They’re showing our team a $%&*#$ing clinic out there.

  14. jak924 on August 18th, 2013 10:29 am

    Is the season over yet?

  15. jak924 on August 18th, 2013 10:29 am

    Clean out the front office NOW!

  16. Westside guy on August 18th, 2013 12:03 pm

    Hey let’s take a guy whose post-ASB OPS is .875 and sit him so he only plays every third or fourth game! That won’t make any difference to either his performance or the team’s, right?

  17. Eastside Suds on August 18th, 2013 3:37 pm

    Nice win today despite the errors and base running mistakes. Life would be so much easier if we stopped making it harder!

  18. currcoug on August 18th, 2013 7:25 pm

    The game’s top prospect, Jurickson Profar, has been in a steady decline the entire season…patience is required where Franklin is concerned, and he may need another stint at AAA for all we know. And let me just say one more time: thank you Justin Upton.

  19. rodzilla on August 18th, 2013 11:33 pm

    Whatever, and yeah, I know there are still problems and issues almost everywhere you look.

    But I like watching these guys. There, I said it out loud.

  20. amnizu on August 19th, 2013 8:29 am

    >David Murphy smiled pre-swing and teed off on that Felix pitch like he knew what pitch he was going to get.
    Is The King falling into predictable patterns?

    I actually think he might be tipping his pitches from the stretch. I don’t have the time or the footage to put it together and Root sports coverage is pretty horrible so I cant get a good enough consistent look at it. Anyway, it looks to me like he taps his front foot in differing patterns for a fastball / change-up vs a his breaking pitch. Straighter pitches tend to be less of a tap with the left foot and breaking pitches tend to be more tapping.

  21. smb on August 19th, 2013 8:48 am

    The three posts directly above this useless meta-commentary are excellent. Thanks to currcoug, rodzilla and amnizu.

  22. currcoug on August 19th, 2013 10:13 am

    It is also worth noting that Franklin made his MLB debut approximately two years earlier than Kipnis did, and Kipnis has had his struggles too: 2011 (July); 2012 (June-August); and 2013 (March/April).

  23. amnizu on August 19th, 2013 11:20 am

    I’ve been watching for it over his last few starts and honestly didn’t want to say anything online for fear of helping the opposition or getting flamed out of existence. I wish I had the time and access to the center field pitcher view camera for his stretch at bats. Right now it is just a hunch I’d love to actually be able to confirm or rule out. His velocity and location all look fine from the stretch, he just seems to get hit much harder with men on base. Can anyone point me to how I might be able to compare his contact rates, OBA and other advanced stats with runners on vs bases empty?

  24. Rick L on August 19th, 2013 12:51 pm

    Did USS Mariner people all go on vacation?

  25. amnizu on August 19th, 2013 1:29 pm

    >Did USS Mariner people all go on vacation?

    Probably recovering from hempfest

  26. NorthofWrigleyField on August 21st, 2013 11:17 am

    I’m still really unsure of when Brad Miller became a better defensive shortstop than Nick Franklin. I understand Franklin assuming the 2B role when he came up… because the Mariners had a hole at 2B and Brendan Ryan… and I understand keeping Franklin at 2B for now, but I’m not completely sure Miller and Franklin’s roles shouldn’t be switched going into next season.

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