What's cool about this...is that the Mariners saw a mechanic problem and actually fixed it.
When was the last time they successfully did that?
As noted in the Shout Box, I have cut and pasted Gordon's article into a new post.
Unfortunately, it loses his pictures. Hopefully it can get patched up later, but at least we have Gordon's text for now.
Somebody's coming up on the majors looking for blood in the water. Some of you may know that I'm a huge Nick Franklin fan, and have been since draft night. When Jason Churchill called him the worst pick in the first round I was flabbergasted, so I went looking for the reasons that would be and couldn't find many I could agree with. And sure enough, he's a top-50 prospect with all kinds of upside as a glove-position infielder (2B at worst) who has swagger in his game and a crushingly pure left-handed swing, as well as an improving right-handed one. His shortstop defense isn't great, but a second-baseman with pop is a huge commodity. So when we drafted Brad Miller, my response was basically, "Hey look, it's Nick Franklin without the home run swing!" Don't get me wrong, I never disliked Miller, but he was the college version of Franklin: nice left-handed swing, questionable glove at SS but a huge work ethic, with vocal leadership skills and all kinds of potential. But while I didn't doubt Franklin's power (at least as a lefty) even with his scrawny frame, Miller's swing made me question his ultimate power ceiling. ------------------------------------- Here's how Miller looked when we drafted him: See how high he holds his hands? His top hand is OVER his helmet. It creates this chop-down motion on the ball that makes for a lot of hard-hit grounders but makes it VERY hard to clear the fence. Ichiro got the same effect by leaning away from the ball when he swung. Terrific for ground balls the other way, but that's not what I wanted from a 2B/3B (I had doubts about his ability to stick at short). It reminded me of Craig Counsell, and I'm not sure that Craig could hold his hands any higher than that. Counsell's career-high in HRs in a season with a swing like that was 9, btw. His second-best year was 4. That's not to knock Counsell - he was a 20 WAR player over the course of his career. Who wouldn't be thrilled to draft one of those? But 20 WAR in 16 years is not exactly a game-changing player. He's one of those guys you need, but not one you really go looking for. And the leg kick/knee knock in that video handcuffs Brad's ability to drive the ball, again AKA Ichiro. It helps take a 6'2 guy with a good strong build and turn him into a slap hitter. What's interesting is the Ms noticed that too (what? I wasn't the only one?) and started moving his hands down as well as cocking the bat back further during his swing to change the plane and load a little. I was glad to see that last year, and the season he had between the Cal and Southern Leagues helped illustrate the changes. Miller, Cal League: .339/.412/.524 Miller, Southern League: .320/.406/.476 Combined line: 40 doubles, 7 triples, 15 HRs out of 186 total hits, and a 74/105 batting eye. Have I mentioned his batting eye? He led the system in walks. Now, he also led the system in plate appearances but the man is willing to stroll to first base when required, something many of our players struggle to do. But his 15 HRs aren't especially impressive considering how much time he spent in High Desert. Kyle Seager hit 14 HRs his year in the Cal League, Stefen Romero hit 11 in less than half Miller's at-bats... he wasn't exactly a machine. But Miller further tweaked his swing in the offseason, amid rumors that he was passing Nick Franklin as both a shortstop and a plate presence. ---------------------------- This is Miller now (I know the angle is different, bear with me): He stands there disdainfully, hands at chest height (below his chin even). When the pitcher throws he rocks his front leg a little, even lifts it, but doesn't knock it together with his other one like dorothy wishing for no place like home. And he fires off at the ball with just a little hand load and certainly not chopping down at at thanks to his revised hand position. The correct plane is there to get an excellent angle for some loft as well as to keep a quick bat in the zone for a while. You can't see the batspeed in this slowed-down clip but trust me he has it. He's always had it, he just didn't always use it to its best advantage. Miller is a strong guy and he's now using that strength to his advantage. He's getting the ball in the air the right way, for lined shots instead of squibbed grounders. I took clips of him getting hits the other way to illustrate how differently he's attacking the ball now. His college swing was an anchor limiting his upside as a hitter. Last year's swing was an in-between swing while he figured this out. This year's swing... look out for this year's swing. Brad Miller played every single game last year as a shortstop. Today Blowers said he would go back to AA to continue as a SS, but get in some time at second and even third. It doesn't sound like they're moving him off the position, though, just giving themselves options. If Miller can stay at short, he's a top-30 prospect. I don't see how he can't be. John Sickels wants to have his babies, and I don't blame him. There's so much to like about Miller... But the best thing is that he's ours. I don't know who is going to win the fight between Miller and Franklin to stay with the Mariners (loser gets traded in an epic package for something we desperately need and DON'T have duplicates of on the farm) but I know that it should be a terrific cage match. Miller's not just some guy, or the next Rich Poythress. Miller's gonna have a long big league future ahead of him, and right now it looks like he'll be far more of an offensive force than the Craig Counsell I originally pegged him as. Well done, sir. Carry on. ~G
What's cool about this...is that the Mariners saw a mechanic problem and actually fixed it.
Miller has a good head on his shoulders, a plus bat and an adequate glove at SS (still remains to be seen if he can stick there, but I like his chances better than Franklin's) Disappointed to see him back at AA since I believe he outperformed Franklin this spring. Do you think they kept Franklin at AAA over Miller in order to keep his trade value up? We can hope...I found it interesting that they plan to move Miller around in the infield in Jackson to give them some options with him. I guess versatility is good, but it seems if they felt really good about him at SS, they'd leave him there since Ryan has only one year left and needs to turn his bat around. Is there someone else in the system that is better suited to be the heir apparent at SS? Noriega has the glove but not the bat and I'm not sure Triunfel is the answer.
Churchill has a piece on Ackley's new stance & swing and has posted pictures of Smoak's new stance and swing. Is it odd to have so many guys retooling their swings at once like this?
Griz, I would suspect that a certain number of guys on a team are always retooling to some extent or another. Batting is a skill of tweaks.
Watching the other day, I thought Smoak's new swing was very apparent on his homer........but a key is always whether a guy stays with it enough to "own" it. Another is whether a guy has the ability to have a tweak make a major difference. I'll give Smoak the first one...it seems to be sticking. I'm not yet sure on the 2nd.
But besides Maurer, I was most impressed with Miller. Hey, he's a MLB player right now.
Deep inside of me I remain concerned about:
1. Going with only one BU infielder. It can't be that common (if used at all), for good reason
2. Bay over Wells. Wells isn't great. He's much more valuable then Bay, however.
3. Raul...as always
Yeah but these aren't small tweaks - they are major overhauls.
We have that guru Doc and his super-high-tech new conditioning program. Do you suppose we're having a lot of guys try to fix what ails them because the conditioning program itself is teaching them why their old methods were leaving them unbalanced or causing recurring swing issues?
Or perhaps our minor league coaches have just gotten better and we're finally having the kinds of things happen down there that most other clubs always have.
I think this is just what happens when a lot of the guys in camp are in their 2nd or 3rd season. None of these stories are about anyone over 30.
He only played a partial season there, so there's no rush in getting him to AAA. Seager jumped from AA to the bigs in one season, and it's always possible Miller could do the same (the Ms have mentioned Brad's potential to be on a Kyle-esque curve).
Triunfel and Franklin are both back at AAA, and yes I think Franklin is there to perform and see what happens. Maybe we promote him mid-season or maybe we trade him. Either way I think it's pretty likely that TWO of Triunfel/Miller/Franklin are gone next year.
There's also the matter of not gypping your lower-minors teams out of talent prematurely. You have some obligations to them and creating an Uber-All-Star team in AAA while AA is filled with scraps is not a good way to maintain club relations with the farm teams (who can and do opt out of associations with major league clubs, which is how we got stuck with that hole of a High Desert location in the first place).
We distributed several of our premium talents down to AA (Walker, Paxton, Miller, Zunino, and Romero are all there at last count right?) and they should be fielding a very interesting team. If the hitting coach who was helping him with his adjusted swing is there then that would be another reason to send him back to Jackson, but I don't know that.
As for future heirs at SS... no. We don't have anyone who qualifies at this point if Neither Miller nor Franklin work out there. Chris Taylor is a good glove man who did well in Everett but is probably back in Clinton for most if not all of this year, so he's quite a ways away. His stick is nowhere near what Miller and Franklin swing either, though he has shown a good eye.
He, Timmy Lopes and Gabe Franca are all a LONG way from the bigs as middle infielders who might be interesting, and none of them is an offensive force. Slap hitters who can get on base is about where they top out (not that that's a bad thing) so we'd be hoping for them to have good gloves.
In the next couple of years our internal options are Triunfel (don't think so), Franklin (looks so sweet at 2B that he might have played his way off of nominal SS), Miller (hangin' tough at SS with the glove but it's the bat that would be most interesting there)... or re-signing Ryan for another coupla seasons.
So as much as I'm thrilled that Miller's bat seems to have ridiculous potential I really hope he spent a bunch of time fielding grounders this winter.
PS - can somebody put some paragraphs in that Wall-O-Text that is this article, if possible? And Doc, maybe we should talk about what I'd need to do in order to be able to edit and post my own articles without them getting stuck behind the site's firewall for a few days. Different log-in, perhaps? I'm glad to be able to post em at all... but the wait and the inevitable formatting destruction that seems to happen makes it almost more trouble than it's worth. Just lemme know if there's a solution.
We have a lot of baseball to talk this year, after all. :-)
I wasn't watching baseball when Joe Morgan was playing, but from various video clips it sure seems like he had plenty of different timing motions. I know Cal Ripken used to switch it up about every year and a half with various mannerisms and hand positions.
Some guys have a swing that never changes, because why would you change a swing like Junior's? Nobody on this team has that kind of swing that is immune to change.
I think the success that Saunders had changing his swing might have made some of the other young players more willing to make changes in their own swings, and guys like Miller had changes made basically as soon as they entered the system. I think it speaks both to the willingness of the kids to be coachable (which is easier when you're struggling while doing what you want to do) as well as the willingness of the Mariners coaches to get in there and do real work instead of just letting kids struggle along trying the same solution but not solving the problem.
Saunders, Ackley and Smoak all changed their own swings, though - or at least did their own offseason corrections to fix what they perceived to be the flaws holding them back. In the end a hitter should know his own swing. Maybe the coaches provided some pushes, maybe not, but it looks to me like several players who SHOULD be better hitters decided to take it upon themselves to make themselves into a version that could have more success.
Hopefully they all find and keep that success. We kinda need them to utilize all that freakish talent already.
I figured with that swing he basically had to stay a SS (and his college fielding numbers were...not spectacular). It's not like the Mariners are known for fixing fielding or batting woes, right? That's why they get dirt dogs in the draft who will just work harder than other prospects and take care of things themselves.
Franklin, Seager, Ackley, Miller et al are baseball rats who eat, sleep and breathe the game. If you can get a Tony Gwynn or Edgar Martinez who come in early, stay late, do extra cage work, shoot tennis balls at themselves at 130 MPH... whatever it takes to gain an edge, then you don't have to do much coaching or correcting.
But it seems we're willing to at least provide the proper instruction now.
Ackley's looked good. Smoak has looked good. Miller looks really good. Franklin's swing from the RH side seems to finally be making progress.
If we finally figured out how to coach up some hitters (the thing Sandy keeps harping on regarding player development) rather than just relying on their innate talent to carry them, then we might really make a muscled-up production line out of this farm system dripping in talent.
Could bode very well. Fingers are definitely crossed on this one, but I have to like the early returns in what I'm seeing.
I have no real right to ask after some of the stunts I've pulled, but I was wondering if I could have my login back. I could theoretically create a different account, but I didn't want to go around your authority here. If you want me to remain in guest limbo, I'd understand...I just wish I could use things like the shout box and see my posts appear immediately instead of whenever a mod happened by (it kind of throws me out of the conversation sometimes when my own thought appears a day after everyone else has already talked about an issue).
I believe I have demonstrated over the last 18 months or so that I took seriously your decision to ban my account...among other things, getting engaged and soon to be married, getting confirmed in my church, finishing my thesis, and job hunting have taught me a lot about tone of voice and the importance of word choice. I suspect your own marriage has taught you patience just as my budding marriage has.
I'll respect your decision either way. Keep up the good work.
"Ackley's looked good..."
I admit I have been unable to see much in the way of M's spring traning baseball. VERY little. But last night I was able to tune in for the first couple of innings, and I saw an Ackley at bat where he struck out and looked just like last year doing it. The smallest of small sample sizes, but it left me wondering.
Please confirm for me that you are convinced Ackley looks to you like he's ready to put last year behind him and take the mantle appropriate to a #2 pick in the draft. It would make me feel a WHOLE lot better.
One of a handful of true keys to the M's season IMHO, along with Smoak. If those two don't become what they were tabbed to be, the youthful core will be a couple of year behind the expectation curve. And the M's can't afford any more seasons where they earn the #2 pick.
I should've thought about Taylor... he is worth keeping an eye on and may not be that far away. I liked what little I saw of him in Spring training. Same age as Franklin and only a year younger than Miller, I'm betting he will start the year in HD just as Miller did last year in his first full season. His bat doesn't project to be the quality of Miller or Franklin's, but its hard to argue with the results he had last year and his glove looks better than both. Did a quick google search and noticed he got some time with the big league guys this spring backing up Ryan at SS (even got the game winning RBI in one game) so maybe they see something in him. Assuming he starts well in HD and if (a very big if) Miller gets a call up this year, I can see Taylor moving to Jackson to replace him. Of course if Miller can handle SS, he's the obvious replacement for Ryan, but if not, and Taylor's glove is as good as advertised at SS, I can forgive a bat something less than Miller or Franklin's ...as long as it's better than Ryan's :)
But he looked to me like he was staying back on the ball the way he needed to in Spring Training and not lurching at it. We'll see. He's gonna have to hit the ball in order to get walks - guys are okay throwing the ball in the zone against him right now. Once he forces them to nibble maybe he can get his batting eye repaired to where it should be.
Then would come driving the ball. I would think. He plays second base so he doesn't have to hit a lot to be decent for us... but if Franklin starts a bonfire down there in AAA now that he's healthy and bulked out, we'll see what happens if Ackley struggles again. Might not be Franklin that gets traded.
But what I wanted to see from Ackley was staying within himself and getting back his Zen calm at the plate that defined his college career. He looked better in that regard to me. If so, that's Step One.
I want to be at Step Four, but right now I'll take Step One. :-)
If you aren't worried about Franklin Gutierrez producing, you shouldn't be worried about Jason Bay. Bay's injuries have been more random, his original production was much higher, his last 3 years production was significantly better (.634 for Guti vs. .687 for Bay), 34 isn't the age that guys like Bay (Players that can hit AND run tend to start fading around 34-36, but guys that maintained .900+ OPS's in their primes fade to low .800s despite injuries: Scott Rolen, Mike Cameron, Jim Edmonds, Reggie Sanders) and the only reason to think that Bay doesn't belong in that group is his low contact rate, which was at career averages even during his last 3 injury riddled years.
A few humble predictions from me:
1) Ackley will disappoint again. Not as bad as 2012, but I'm guessing he hits about .275 with limited power and not all that many walks. It won't be an eyesore, but it won't really help us as much as we'd like. And his strong showing on defense last year will revert to more what you'd expect from a guy who frequently looks as awkward with his feet as he does...he'll go to about zero on the UZR-o-meter (dead average).
2) Smoak will have his breakout season and bat about .280 with 28-30 HR and 100 RBI.
3) Brandon Maurer will be a serious contender for the ROY award, going 15-9 with an ERA south of 4.
4) Joe Saunders will do better than some people fear based on ST...but not better enough...a Jarrod Washburn DOWN season (high 4s ERA)...but just better enough that he does not get canned. The Mariners will stick with him all season...he'll go about 6-14 with a 4.80 ERA
5) Hisashi Iwakuma will be hurt for at least a month
6) Blake Beavan will get a one-way ticket to AAA after becoming confused by his new delivery
7) There will be SEVEN Mariners with at least 20 HR this year...the team last accomplished that feat in 1996, if you're curious. The team, as a whole will threatan 200 HR and fall just short of that mark.
8) Seattle will score more than 800 runs
9) Seattle will give up more than 700 runs (do the math...800/700 pythags to about a high-80s kind of season)
10) Seattle will contend for a WC birth and fall just short in September due to a lack of adequate rotation performance as the kids get a bit tired.
Bay will also be moving from the NL's second worst hitting park to a park that will now play as mildly pitcher friendly at best. I think Bay will hit like Sweeney did in 2009.
My UNC bias notwithstanding, my opinion on Ackley and Smoak as generally reversed.
I think Smoak will disappoint (again), while Ackley will be the "surprise" breakout bat this year.
I'd personally take the under on the 800 runs scored, (but not drastically under).
Honestly, I think the season-long for the pitching comes out about equal to 2012 ... (though there will be bumps).
I think the impact of the fences won't be as large as people are talking - yes, a few extra dingers ... but I expect there will continue to be BABIP suppression.
It's not that I expect miracles from the roation - I just think people don't realize how weak the rotation really was last year:
SP - ERA+
Felix - 122
Iwakuma - 118
Vargas - 97
Millwoon - 88
Beavan - 84
Noesi - 64
People concentrate on the Noesi number, (which was 106 innings and 18 starts), kind of ignoring the 28/26 starts from Millwood and Beavan that were signficantly below average. While I'm not a fan of Beavan, I wasn't a fan of Fister, either. But, the 2012 bar was set LOW. I think "somebody" from the minors figures it out and by the 2nd half, the club has 4 SPs with ERA+ figures above 100, (regardless of the impact of the fence).
Like you, I think the club is a close miss for the playoffs - but hold out hope for a "Pendleton" to change that equation.
Bay just struck out 18 times in 55 plate appearances.....in ST.
Take away three games and he went 9 for 40.
Wells actually struck out 19 times. He has defensive value, however.....on a team where our CF will almost certainly get a DL stint.
I hope Bay finds his game. It's a longshot I think.
GMZ & Sgt Wedge chose veterans Bay & Ibnaez over Wells & Carp for 2013 4th & 5th outfielders, sacrificing defense & speed, as well as upside and future years of club control for 1 year of veteran intangibles and perhaps more predictable production. The vets come at a higher salary cost too. Well, Sgt Wedge isn't too big on defensive replacements anyway. As a Mariner fan, I hope that Bay & Raul produce, but as Moe points out, Bay looks like a long shot and I personally remain to be convinced that 41 year old Raul can hit outside Yankee Stadium. Stay tuned.
I would vote Matty back onto the island :)
Haven't we spent the last three months practically in a panic over how the heck we're going to get our prospects playing time?
Club controlled years for players who are bad at part time play? I don't care. I don't care about Carp and Wells because they serve no purpose to this team. Wells is KNOWN to be a bad hitter when used in part time play. Is he gonna play full time here? No? Then who cares about club control?
He's good defensively...but from what I saw of Bay and Wells...Bay was far more in control of his at bat than Wells was...Wells was all over the place. You take out a huge few games against minor leaguers early in ST and he hit about .050 with 50% of his PA as Ks. Not interested...don't care. :)
We're all stressed out over back-up outfielders, NONE of whom had a future with this club after 2013 anyway since the prospects are about to force their way onto the roster.
He always had. And you could just as easily take away 3 different games from Spring Training and he would have been 17/44 with 13 strike outs. Bay looked better to me on TV and he looked better to a large group of professionals in person. Seriously, guys that hit home runs and run well rarely are finished at 34.
Z and/or der Wedgie have stated their desire to add a second UT infielder to the team. Franklin CAN play at least second and shortstop. Would he be more valuable in a trade or being groomed to become that second UT infielder?
But he had more value as a starter. :-)
If we wanted to keep Franklin and find him a place with the currently-constructed Mariners then you're right, we could do it by sticking him on the bench. But that wouldn't help him (he wouldn't get at-bats) and would kill his value. If everything goes poorly for Franklin and he hits his low mark he might be a bench player in the bigs. His arm is a little light for third but he could play it. He can survive at short, and he's great at second. As a lefty-platoon option off the bench and backup in case of injury or needed days off he'd be fine...
But that's not all he can be. There are vets who have proven that's all they can be who should be gettable for basically nothing.
It's like driving a sports car back and forth to the store. You CAN do it, but that's probably not all you should do with it, not unless the sports car is a lemon that can't steer the curves at 90 mph. Franklin is far from a lemon at this point.
And since he knows that too, you'd have a pretty pissed-off player if you made him a 100 plate-appearance benchie as a top-50 prospect.
In a big way.
Actually, Franklin is the youngest of both Taylor and Miller.