Baseball

Mike Zunino, Reclamation Project

By: Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter: @jarlyjarhead

My wife scrolls Pinterest a lot, not quite for hours at a time, but at least for many minutes at a time. I suppose she could be reading a blog post, but if she is, she found that blog on Pinterest. Pinterest is weird. It’s classified as social networking, but there is nothing social about it. She doesn’t follow anyone, or engage in conversation. She doesn’t post anything either. But Pinterest is a hobby of hers, which sounds odd, but hear me out.

My wife loves reclamation projects. When she’s scrolling Pinterest it isn’t a mindless activity, but rather an involved activity. She’s on the hunt for a DIY, cataloging every cute idea that comes between her fingertip and her iPad. She’ll take those non-descript boards of wood, scrounge up some rope and, boom, here’s a shelf. She found some terracotta pots at a garage sale for a dollar once, and now we have a potted plant waterfall thing in our front yard.

She takes pride in improving something, but it’s about the process just as much as it is about the end result. If she cared about baseball, I’m sure she would take pride in the process of Mike Zunino, reclamation project.

***

As I write this, Zunino is hitting in the sixth inning with the Mariners losing to the Yankees 5-3. It’s the end of August, and the Mariners are only one game out of the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are within striking distance of the playoffs as well. This is meaningful baseball. There are two runners on and the Yankees just brought in a right handed pitcher, only one out after their last call to the bullpen. Obviously a same-handed strategy designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of a once struggling Zunino.

Zunino works a full count, at one point down 1-2, and takes ball three in the dirt as he steps out of the box. He shakes his head, reminding himself of what would have certainly been a strikeout this same time last year. The sixth pitch is a slider, on the lower outside corner, a pitch that has haunted Zunino in the past, but this time it’s different. He sits back, waits on the pitch and drives it to the opposite field for an improbable three run homerun. A homerun that would prove to be the difference in this game. This at-bat encapsulates the reclamation project that has become Mike Zunino. He used to be a couple of boards and some rope, now he’s starting to resemble a shelf.

***

This is all very dramatic, but it isn’t without some context. Zunino was a disaster last season. Of all players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2015 (248), Zunino was next to last in wRC+.  That’s bad enough in and of itself, but he also struck out more often than any of those players as well, at just over 34% of the time. He also had the worst batting average and on base percentage of the bunch. Hell, more than 200 players had a higher batting average than Mike had OBP! I could keep going, but no need to pile on and you get the point. Dude was awful.

In 2016, Zunino is just now getting consistency as a regular in the lineup and the sample size is still extraordinarily small. But the reason for hope is in part because of the way that he was handled at the beginning of the year. It’s been obvious to Mariners fans that Zunino was called up too early in his career. Especially without ever really dominating the minors the way one would hope for a high level talent. Jerry Dipoto also realized this and put on his kid gloves with Mike from the start. He signed Chris Iannetta with intentions of him being the starter and traded for Steve Clevenger with the sole purpose of him acting as a backup and put more plainly, to keep Zunino in AAA for as long as possible. It was only after Clevenger got hurt that Dipoto’s kid gloved hand was forced and he moved Zunino up to the big league team. Yet even then Dipoto wasn’t convinced, he sent Zunino back down only a week later and recalled Jesus Sucre from the disabled list. Sucre however didn’t last long and we’re now experiencing our current iteration of Zunino. An everyday catcher still great at defense and pitch framing and also the guy with a wRC+ that currently sits four times higher than his total last year, 189.

All of this is very interesting and inspiring, Zunino seems like a good guy and he certainly deserves this surge. But the more interesting question, is how in the hell he’s made such a drastic improvement. The low hanging fruit is that he has simply become more patient at the plate and he’s swinging less in general. This includes pitches outside of the zone, a weakness of his before and a big reason for his lofty strikeout numbers from last season. This year he’s swinging less on all pitches and has lowered his strikeout rate by more than 10%, which over the course of the season is in the neighborhood of 40 fewer strikeouts.

Year Swing Percentage Strikeout Percentage
2015 49.60% 34.20%
2016 46.00% 23.00%

 

He is also starting to make better contact. Zunino, and a player with a similar profile, will rarely be league average or better as a contact hitter. He likes to swing hard, hit dingers and clear bases. But even an all-world player like Giancarlo Stanton has contact rates well below league average. So that isn’t necessarily the problem to begin with, but an improved contact rate certainly helps.

A nice little byproduct of both swinging less and making more contact is that Zunino is starting to get on base a lot more in the way of walks. His walk rate is more than double what it was a season ago, a change in more than 20 additional times on base over the course of a season.

So Zunino is beginning to eliminate outs and effectively replace them with walks. He’s also changing the way in which he hits the ball. His BABIP is actually lower this season than it was in 2015, so luck isn’t a factor. What is a factor though is that his line drive rate has increased, his groundball rate has decreased and oh shit his HR/FB ratio has nearly tripled.

Year LD Percentage GB Percentage HR/FB Ratio
2015 17.40% 32.60% 10.10%
2016 19.20% 28.80% 29.60%

 

More important than being more selective and making better contact, is that he is also beginning to take advantage of areas that were recently exploited. In 2015, he was mostly challenged on the low outside corner of the zone (the four lower right squares of image).

Zunino2015ZoneBrooks.JPG

Nearly 30% of all pitches that Zunino saw last year were in the low and outside quadrant of the strike zone. And he didn’t do well.

Zunino2015ZoneSLGBrooks.JPG

To be clear, these are slugging percentages not batting averages. Zunino had a clear weakness and major league pitchers aren’t one for charity.

For comparison, below is the percentages of pitches per zone for 2016.

Zunino2016ZoneBrooks.JPG

Once again pitchers continue to attack Zunino in the same area and do so about 30% of the time. But he has begun to improve and has applied a child’s size Band-Aid to this area.

Zunino2016ZoneSLGBrooks.JPG

He still struggles with pitches in this area that are outside of the strike zone, but we know that he mitigates that by swinging less at those pitches. But in the strike zone for that area, the dude is raking. A weakness can only be a weakness for so long until the player begins to evolve.

Time will tell if Zunino’s play is sustainable, but it’s nice to see that there is actually data to back up his surge. With Zunino’s already strong reputation as a defender, even becoming an average offensive player will make him a better than average big leaguer. Then again, he is a high end draft pick with the talent to match, perhaps Dipoto has created his potted plant waterfall thing that will sit behind home plate and hit in the middle of the order for years to come.

 

A look at strikeouts

By: Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

Baseball is a simple game. You throw, catch, hit and run. The team that scores the most runs wins the game. The winner of the last game of the season is the champion. When put simply, yes, baseball is a simple game. When put less simply, it is anything but. The statistics that were on the back of my childhood baseball cards of Batting Average (AVG), Earned Run Average (ERA) and home runs (HR) have evolved into statistics that aren’t as intuitive. Now we analyze the game using Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), Weighted Runs Created (wRC) and perhaps most importantly Wins Above Replacement (WAR). These and many other advanced statistics are the new normal for the ever changing sabermetric baseball world.

Thing is, I don’t know how to analyze most of these statistics; at least not as quickly as I would the now arcane statistics. They require reading and sometimes rereading the description before fully grasping the stat. And then after a few months, I’ll probably need a refresher of reading and rereading the description again.

The question I ask myself with most of these stats is:

  1. What new stats are the most important?
  2. When can we trust the stats?
  3. What is league average for these stats?

The answer to the first question is that there probably isn’t only one way to analyze a player. Sure WAR encompasses all that a player does, but there are inconsistencies with it. The first and most obvious inconsistency is that there are multiple versions as both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference have their own formulas. In addition WAR uses defensive metrics that vary, as both Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) are considered. Not only do they have different ways to measure performance but are often times far apart in the actual analysis on an individual player. In addition, WAR doesn’t tell specific stories about the player’s statistics, it is simply the long range view. The reason why a hitter struggles against right handed pitchers will require some additional digging.

Questions two and three are what I hope to cover over a period of time on this blog. The sabermetric community will often times cite small sample size (SSS) when analyzing a player. What is so neat about SSS is that someone incredibly smart has found out when a specific stat will stabilize (you can find the tool here) and becomes a large enough sample to have proper context. And to find league average of each these stats, we have decades of data to apply to what is now a very large sample size.

To begin in this young season of only April, a time when a more casual observer will say that the Milwaukee Brewers are destined for a championship and that Charlie Blackmon will be our first .400 hitter since Ted Williams, we have two stats that have stabilized for most regular players around the league. The first we’ll cover is strikeout rate, a stat that stabilizes at 60 plate appearances. Since this is a Seattle Mariners blog, we’ll stick to them.

Of the Mariners 25 man roster, only eight have qualified for stabilization of strikeout rate. This shows not only how young our season is but also shows consistency with Lloyd McClendon’s daily lineups. And out of those eight, a whopping five are higher than league average in 2014…that’s a bad thing.

K% 2013 2014
League Average 19.90% 20.90%
Corey Hart *24.3% 18.80%
Mike Zunino 25.40% 29.70%
Justin Smoak 22.80% 23.80%
Robinson Cano 12.50% 13.30%
Kyle Seager 17.60% 21.50%
Dustin Ackley 16.90% 18.40%
Abraham Almonte 25.60% 35.10%
Brad Miller 15.50% 30.20%
*2012

My first takeaway from this data is, oh geez this is bad. The youngest of the Mariners’ players are the ones that seem the worst off. Brad Miller’s strikeout rate has nearly doubled since his short stint with the team last year. Mike Zunino has regressed as well and sweet Christ look at Abraham Almonte! This guy is our lead off hitter and he strikes out more than a third of his at bats.

Let’s take an even closer look at these three folks. For a guide on these fancy pants stats, go here.

2014 O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Contact%
League Average 30% 65% 46% 81%
Mike Zunino 47.20% 76.90% 62.70% 66.70%
Abraham Almonte 19.50% 59.10% 39.70% 72.00%
Brad Miller 41.60% 62.10% 51.90% 74.50%

Zunino can be explained as a swinger with limited pitch recognition, the dude swings at everything. His contact rate will obviously be low when he’s swinging at nearly half of the pitches he sees that are out of the strike zone. I also mentioned in an earlier post that he has a high swing and miss rate on fastballs, which explains his high swing rate for pitches in the zone coupled with having a low contact rate.

Miller has pitch recognition issues as well, as his O-Swing% is nearly as bad as Zunino’s. That also explains his contact problems and I think that this is representative of both players being very young still.

Almonte is an interesting case. I think he simply has trouble making contact. His O-Swing% explains why he is at the top of the order as he has a strong understanding of what his strike zone is and while walk rates haven’t stabilized yet for this season he has a history of promising walk rates in the minors. He simply has trouble making contact, once again I believe this is mostly a sign of him being a young player that is still getting used to big league pitching.

While those three young players are concerning and are certainly the outliers when looking at their strikeout rate, it is encouraging to see Dustin Ackley maintaining average strikeout rates considering his struggles up to this point. In addition, Corey Hart has seen a significant dip since his last full season in 2012 and the dude is starting to rake, also an encouraging sign as he is sorely needed in the middle of that lineup.

The past week of Mariners baseball has been tough and it has been the same old story, they can’t score runs. I get the feeling though that as these young guys start to settle into the season and feel more comfortable, that the strikeout rates will drop, the contact rates will increase and we’ll start to see some hits drop in.

Next up on my sabermetric tour will be the counterpart of strikeout rates for batters, but with pitchers!

Mariners win 6-4; First in AL West!

By: Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

 

Me: Those Ks are short for the word strikeout.

Daughter: Don’t they mean King for Felix?

M: Well…that certainly makes sense!

D: I think they mean King because Felix is the King of baseball.

 

Truer words were never spoken. Tonight was Felix’s first home start of the season and ROOT Sports led their broadcast with stats highlighting the reign of Felix since he joined the Mariners in 2005. The short version of these stats is that Felix has dominated the league since he first stepped onto big league dirt. The long version is that since his arrival he is first in strikeouts, first in quality starts, first in starts with at least 7 IP with two earned runs or less and third in complete game shutouts. They even created a stat called mega quality starts and since 2010, he leads that category as well. The short version again, Felix is the man. Going against the A’s (again) only solidified the fact that Felix would be dominant once again. See, the King has faced the A’s 30 times in his career coming into tonight’s game and holds a 16-7 record with a 2.60 ERA against his AL West rival. Tonight was a foregone conclusion.

The Supreme Court was in session for tonight’s game as 30,000 fans were wearing the King’s gold throughout the ballpark. The energy of the crowd was palpable even while watching on television and early on it was obvious that he was especially excited for this game as he was consistently getting up to 94 early on. Usually, a dominant Felix will have at least his changeup and fastball working. Tonight, he had his curve biting as well and was even mixing in his slider. There was even a point in the game after Felix threw Yoenis Cespedes a slider and after waving at the pitch for a swinging strike, all Cespedes could do was shake his head with a look of disbelief. It’s difficult enough to prepare for two dominant pitches, when adding a third and a fourth it’s nearly impossible for the hitter.

This was the story for most of the night and while he didn’t strike out a batter in the first he struck out one in the second, two in the third and then struck out the side in the fourth and again in the seventh. In total, Felix finished with 11 strikeouts in seven innings of work. He also didn’t walk a batter and only gave up four hits. This was a night fit for a King and he received a standing ovation as he walked off the field in the seventh to Aloe Blacc’s “The Man”. Fitting, for The Man that is the King of Baseball, go ahead and tell everybody.

***

On to the bullets!

  • Tommy Milone was throwing first pitch strikes and the Mariners were swinging. Abraham Almonte ripped the first pitch from Milone for a double, followed by a bunt single from Brad Miller on the very next pitch and another infield single by Robinson Cano on his first pitch. The simple math, three pitches for three hits to start the game. The last of which scored the first run of the ballgame.
  • Despite the win, the Mariners squandered an opportunity in the first inning with the bases loaded and only one out. They followed with an infield fly ball from Kyle Seager and a strikeout by rookie Stefen Romero.
  • Dustin Ackley clocked in with three hits tonight in four at bats and it looks like his hot streak at the end of last season was real and has continued into this year. His first hit was an outside pitch that he punched the other way through the infield. He then followed with a hard hit double that one hopped the wall and he ended his hit parade with a whoops single over the heads of the infield. Fingers are crossed real tight that this is sustainable, but I like seeing him hit the ball hard and hitting it the other way.
  • The significant scoring came in the sixth when Mike Zunino absolutely crushed a ball from Milone to left for a two run home run. It was one of those shots where the outfielders don’t even move. A no doubter for anyone who was watching.
  • In the same inning Miller hit another home run, his third of the season and this one was a big boy home run. In the cold sea air of Safeco Field Miller hit one to straight away center. An impressive showing of strength. He’s a shortstop!
  • Things got hairy in the eighth, Felix convinced Lloyd Mclendon that he should pitch and then quickly allowed two base runners without recording an out and the bullpen that has been solid up to this point showed signs of weakness. Lucas Luetge in his first appearance of the year walked a batter on four straight pitches to load the bases, followed by Danny Farquhar walking in a run. Then Charlie Furbush allowed a run on a single, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice.
  • Fernando Rodney coming into this season has inspired fear, when he’s on his game he is terrifyingly good. When he’s not, he’s just terrifying. Tonight he was very good. His location was spot on and his changeup when paired with a 96 MPH fastball is simply unfair. Rodney is yet to allow a run in this young season.

The Mariners are in first place in the AL West! They play the A’s again tomorrow. Sonny Gray vs. Erasmo Ramirez.

Felix Felixes, Mariners win

Living in the Portland area, it can be hard to attend Mariners games during the season. Life can be so damned busy sometimes and at other times there isn’t enough money to justify making the trip up to Seattle. This is of course without mentioning that the commute is 3 plus hours and the traffic in Tacoma is never peaceful. So when I do go to a game, there is very little planning that goes into it. I’ll see that I have an open couple of days and make a weekend out of visiting Seattle on a whim. Because of that reason, I very rarely plan a trip around the more interesting teams of the league, never have I seen the Yankees or the Red Sox. The Angels and the Tigers have always eluded me as well. In fact, more often than not I am seeing the Oakland A’s. While they have been successful in recent years, my god they are a boring team to watch live. They don’t have must see starting pitchers or an explosive position player. Their roster is pretty blah from top to bottom. Their blah has produced an average of 95 wins over the past two years to accompany two AL West titles, but that doesn’t do much for their home attendance let alone the attendance when they’re visiting another ballpark. Plus, it also seems that every game they play against the Mariners ends 2-0 or 3-1 with minimal highlight moments.

I say all of this not because I attended another Mariners vs. A’s game (they’re in Oakland, that’s a long drive). Instead I bring this up because it was exciting today. Sure it was a 3-1 game like all the others but Felix was pitching and man, he Felixed the shit out of the A’s.

Like most Mariners fans I make an event out of Felix Day and today was no different. I could have been at Ikea getting lost in the maze of furniture and eating 50 cent meatballs but instead I was camped out in my man cave chomping on chips and salsa, loudly yelping every couple of minutes after another Felix strikeout.

He started out the game strong, his curve was quite obviously dialed in early in the game and he was delivering it sharply to begin each at-bat, stealing a strike in the process. While the royal curve was freezing the patient A’s bunch early in the count, his changeup was making the hitters look silly to end the at-bats. Six of his eight strikeouts were via the changeup and four of them came after just two innings of work, two innings that only called for 20 pitches of which 18 went for strikes. He didn’t surrender his first hit until the fourth and only walked a single batter in 8 1/3 innings.

Yet early on, Felix was matched pitch for pitch by A’s hurler Dan Straily. Straily had six strikeouts through just three innings and was rolling with mostly soft stuff, the nastiest of which was his slider. He generated whiffs on 32.6% (Felix 19.6%) of his pitches that were swung at, most of which came from his fastball that averaged 89MPH showing that he had good mix of his pitches early on. But the wheels fell off in the fifth as those swings and misses turned into hard hit balls. Kyle Seager led off the inning with a double off the wall in left and later advanced to third on a wild pitch and it was an almost certainty that the Mariners would push at least one run across in the inning. Dustin Ackley had other plans though and preferred to drive in Seager and himself with his first home run of the year to deep right. After a fly out by Mike Zunino, Abraham Almonte got on the board for his first home run that was smoked to right, even deeper than Ackley’s.

AlmonteHR

And that was all the scoring that the Mariners would need. Felix got into a bit of trouble in the ninth by giving up a solo shot to Jed Lowrie followed by a Brandon Moss single to put the tying run on base. But Fernando Rodney came in with his Bugs Bunny changeup, saved his first game as a Mariner then proceeded to shoot arrows in the sky.

Game over and a 3-1 victory for the Mariners who move to 4-1 on the season. 4-1 guys!

 

On to the bullets!

  • Last night’s game was cancelled because the A’s grounds crew sucks and didn’t put the tarp out overnight and the infield became flooded. There were discussions to have the double header today but it has instead been scheduled for the series starting on May 5th. Of note, both Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma are expected back by this time. The Mariners are sneaky.
  • It seemed that Zunino was missing on a lot of fastballs and Brooks Baseball confirms that assumption as he whiffs on 28% of the fastballs he swings at.
  • Felix and Josh Donaldson had some words in the sixth in what appeared to be mostly a miscommunication of body language. Either way, after the conversational scuffle Felix struck Donaldson out on the next pitch. Owned.
  • Robinson Cano now has a 5 game hit streak, today he checked in with two hits, both singles. He’s hitting .421 in this young season.
  • Lloyd McClendon communicated his awareness that his outfield defense isn’t very good and has made adjustments late in the game to bring in Michael Saunders. The past few games has seen Saunders spelling Logan Morrison in right field to play the final few innings. Today it paid off as Saunders made three good plays that Morrison would have surely flubbed.

 

Tomorrow the Mariners have a chance for their second consecutive series win as Erasmo Ramirez opposes Sonny Gray.

Brad Miller oh man!

By: Jared Ellis

Follow @jarlyjarhead

There has been talk all spring on other blog sites and people in the know that Brad Miller is really good at baseball, possibly a top level SS already. He broke with the team late last year for a cup of coffee that lasted for 76 games and hit .265/.318/.418 while also smacking 8 HRs. All the while adding defensive and base running value. Early on, it didn’t take people in the know to be able to tell that Miller had a bright future.

To catch you up even further, the dude is awesome. He’s the classic, old school type ball player that fans love to follow. He wears stirrups guys! And you know what else!? He doesn’t wear batting gloves, that’s unheard of and he may be the only active player in MLB that doesn’t. Plus he’s a hard worker and plays the game the right way and all of that other shit we talk about with players like Miller.

Signs of his hard work showed up as he got bigger in the off season, he said that he was in the best shape of his life, another thing that is always said about players in spring. But he may have been right.

I didn’t watch the whole game last night, I was in school, but was tracking on my phone and noticed that he hit a HR earlier in the game and that the Mariners were up early. Here’s his first HR:

BradMillerHR (2)

I got home in time for the top of the ninth, just in time for his second HR. And the sound that it made, I didn’t even need to be watching to know that it was gone. The ball jumped off his bat and didn’t have the arc of the first one but with intense velocity. In fact, his second HR of the night in this young season is the third longest HR of the year in true distance at 427 feet and has the fastest speed off the bat so far as well at just over 112 MPH. He’s a shortstop.

BradMillerSolo (2)

Miller is definitely stronger, there is a noticeable physical difference since last year and these HRs show that the strength is useful. Not to mention he led all Cactus Leaguers in with a 1.314 OPS (i know, i know…it was Spring Training). But with plus defense and power at a premium position we could have a real special player on our hands.

Mariners fill my glass

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

I tell friends of mine, most of which are non-baseball fans, that the end of the World Series isn’t a joyous occasion. It most certainly is for the winners and the fans of the winning team, but while the unkempt Red Sox were celebrating last October I was in a somber mood. The final out of the World Series signifies the imminent wet, cold winter ahead. The final pitch is the start of a long break with no baseball.

After baseball, the sports landscape becomes dominated by the Neanderthal sports that rely more on sheer athleticism and size than skill; racing against a clock in confusing sports that is mostly defined by running in a straight line. Oh, and hit someone. Play physical.

But yesterday that all came to a crashing halt, sure basketball will still be played well into June and the general public shifts into football come September. But for the months in between, only the thinking man’s game remains and for many baseball fans, that is all there is.

***

I worked during most of the day games, another gentle reminder that I need to start taking that day off in the future. Yet I was available during the Mariner game, Felix day! and sunshine and lollipops (credit: Lookout Landing).

It was a weird feeling throughout the game, I’ve become numb to this team from year to year because…Mariners. So while a lot of the Mariner community is feeling optimistic about the signing of Robinson Cano, Taijuan Walker starting his first full season, Kyle Seager still being a boss and Brad Miller projected to be a high-end starting SS, I feel level. The glass isn’t half full or half empty, there is simply half left. The Steamer and Oliver projections that have this team around 80 wins seem fair. And through the first six or seven innings of the first game it felt exactly like that.

The Mariners boringly manufactured a run in the second after Justin Smoak doubled and was moved to third after a productive out, he later scored on a Saunders sacrifice. In the sixth Seager doubled off the wall and scored Smoak but Logan Morrison thieved a run from his own team with his glacial movements around the bases as he was thrown out at home. Mix in some suspect defense from Dustin Ackley in left and an error from Seager at third base and it was 2013 all over again. Especially when coupled with the fact that Felix was absolutely dealing while getting little support from his offense.

But then something happened, Mike Zunino TRIPLED! to bring home Ackley and was later scored by an Abraham Almonte hustle double. In the ninth Smoak absolutely crushed a 3-run homerun, no doubt stringing along the desperate fan base just a little bit longer. Ackley hit a bases loaded triple in the same inning to extend the lead to 10-3, also stringing along hopeful fans. (Man, the Mariners must keep a large supply of yarn in the basement of Safeco Field.) Even the bullpen looked dominant as Tom Wilhelmsen was able to complete four outs without completely imploding.

Sure it’s early and it’s wise to temper expectations especially given the extreme small sample size of only a single game. But maybe this was the long game of Jack Zdurienik, build up a strong prospect base, fortify the ever important bullpen, make a splashy signing and lean on your stars until the youngsters come along. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable, but my glass might be half full now.

***

On to some bullet points!

  • Almonte hit in the leadoff spot for most of Spring Training and there were thoughts about whether that would be a good move going into the season, especially with more appropriate choices (Miller). But Almonte worked a seven pitch at-bat in his first appearance and later singled in that at-bat. He finished the day 2-5 with a double and drove in a run. He also attempted to steal a base in the first inning, perhaps representative of how Lloyd McClendon plans to use him.
  • Mike Trout hit a 2-run homerun off of Felix in the first inning that seemed impossible. A breaking ball that landed in the lower inside corner. But dude is strong and good and shit man, why can’t he be in another division?
  • Smoak doubled in the second and nearly doubled again later in the game that went just foul. McClendon said during Spring Training that Smoak could lead the league in doubles. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.
  • Ackley took a horrible route to a ball hit by Albert Pujols in the third that ended up scoring a run. This defense will still be an adventure from time to time, although not quite as bad as Raul Ibanez.
  • Speaking of Raul, he K’d three times and looked silly doing it. At least they’re DH’ing him.
  • Cano’s first hit was cued off the end of his bat and went about 35 feet. He hustled to first and was safe. So much for that no hustle thing.
  • I hustled, lulz.
  • Morrison looked out of sorts. Missing everything thrown his way while striking out three times. To his credit, Jered Weaver is a crafty dude. And also, Morrison looks like Private Pyle.
  • Felix was, is and will always be the man. After the Trout homerun he got visibly mad and then mowed down most everyone in the Angels’ lineup. He threw 30 pitches in the third that included Ackley’s terrible route in left and Seager’s error but he still made it through six innings while striking out 11 hitters. His changeup was filthy all night.

CJ Wilson versus Erasmo Ramirez next time out, hoping the glass stays full. ‘Til next time.

Mariners trade for Logan Morrison

Jared Ellis

Follow on Twitter @jarlyjarhead

In my earlier post about the signing of Corey Hart, I mentioned that Hart’s signing could be the first step for the organization to cut bait with Justin Smoak. It seems that the Mariners have now taken another step in what looks like at least a competition for the 1B/DH platoon split.  Shortly after signing Hart, the Mariners then traded young reliever Carter Capps for Miami Marlins OF/1B Logan Morrison. While Morrison, like Hart, has played the outfield neither seems fit to do so any longer, at least not on a long term basis. Both players have a history with injuries and prevention is the best move going forward with players like this. Thus, both Hart and Morrison appear to be ideal fits for the 1B/DH slot. So either the Mariners are compiling a 2014 version of last year’s 1B/DH carousel or someone is leaving in one way or another. Further complicating matters is that Morales is still unsigned after having declined the Mariners’ qualifying offer and the only rumor including his name has been right back with the Mariners.

Let’s look at what this platoon situation would look like though. Hart is almost certainly the right handed version of this platoon. He has a proven track record, higher upside, Morrison is a lefty and Smoak is terrible from the right side. The real question is whether Morrison or Smoak would deserve the plate appearances from the left side. The table below doesn’t show the splits versus right handed pitchers but gives a good idea about who these players are.

Name BB% K% ISO AVG OBP WAR
Logan Morrison 11.40% 16.80% 0.133 0.242 0.333 -0.6
Justin Smoak 12.30% 22.80% 0.174 0.238 0.334 0.4

In case you were wondering, they are the same player. Both are limited defensively. Both players were once highly rated prospects and both players kind of suck. Neither is able to handle the offensive expectations at 1B which is where Hart comes in. This could be construed a couple of different ways. As mentioned above it could mean that Smoak is out the door but has not been officially dealt yet. Or this could spurn some competition between Morrison and Smoak when Spring Training comes around. Either way, expectations out of the lefty platoon split should be tempered. Neither are good players and nothing indicates that they will be anytime soon.