...... M's 4

Chris Chambliss' age-27 season landed him #5 in the MVP voting

 ................................

=== Michael Saunders ===

Is swinging the bat very well.  He seems to be grooving in his stroke, the one in which his bat stops at the 1B foul line and the the one in which he finishes with his belt buckle pointed at the shortstop.  He is swinging that way more and more often, and looking more and more natural as he does it.

His OPS+ is slightly above 100, and he's on pace for almost 3.0 WAR.  Do you remember center field last season?

Player WAR
Guti (92 games)

+1.1

Saunders -0.5
Langerhans -0.7
Trayvon -0.9
Total -1.0

Gutierrez was nominally credited with 1.1 WAR, but don't let that mislead you.  His OBP was .261 -- think about that, now -- and his SLG was .273 also.  UZR credited him with +15 defensive runs in half a season, so the aggregate looked like things were okay there.

If a stat tells you that a .534 OPS center fielder is a decent player, that's an idictment of the stat.  Seriously.  Franklin Gutierrez 2011 calls into question the statistic of WAR.  ... I don't say it's the end of the discussion, of course.  But if you look at a .261 OBP singles hitter, and go "well, he's got a decent WAR," check your blog pass at the door amigo.

Anyway:  in 2010 and 2011 the Mariners were a laughingstock offensively, literally posting 1906-type offensive numbers, and lest you forget, a big part of that was the steaming dinosaur tar pit in center field.

Saunders is on pace for nearly 3.0 WAR.  Keep it in perspective.  Center field is fixed.  He says gingerly.

............

Michael Saunders was never going to hit .300.  His game is going to be a .240 average with 25 homers and real good speed.  He's a weird player.  Just forget his batting average, as far as wanting to see it look like Ackley's, we mean.

His swing looks real good, we predict hot streaks going forward, and if it's my club Michael Saunders is my center fielder.

.

=== Miguel Olivo ===

We notice that Montero and Jaso were right back in there after Olivo's entitlement start, first day back.

Jaso helped create Ervin Santana's pain, with two walks and four real tough AB's.  Montero caught a good game but was rubbish in the batter's box.  It was 5 men he left on base, if anybody's counting.  Even one good at-bat and the M's probably win.

Point is:  seismo's that Wedge is willing to re-think the team captaincies.  Baby steps, Marge, baby steps.

.

=== Justin Smoak ===

Chris Chambliss came up with a swing key that I hadn't heard of before - replant the front foot early.  Exaggeratedly early.

It has worked wonders for Smoak.  He almost hesitates now on 92 MPH fastballs, waiting for them to arrive.  And the HR he smacked was on an offspeed pitch.  He read the pitch calmly, and then simply swatted it into the Safeco porch out there.

You remember how Edgar used to keep his head wayyyyy back, almost rocking on his back leg as the ball arrived?  Smoak's been doing that for about a week now.

...........

He swatted the HR .... and then his gimp around 1B made me sad.  Jeff Sullivan pointed out that Smoak never, that is never, hits the ball 400 feet any more.  He can't plant the back toe.

Ah well.  Mickey Mantle used to get both his legs taped from hip to ankle like a mummy, and he limped through the second half of his career.  They "monitored that day-to-day," too.  This is hardcore baseball, dudes.

.............

Smoak isn't a 300/30/100 hitter at this point -- the legs are holding him back -- but Chambliss' cute little foot plant trick has Smoak out of the doldrums.  He can participate in the rallies now.

If anybody even cares about the rallies.  Is 2012 on, or what?

.

Bah humbug,

Dr D

 

Comments

1

Smoak just ain't going to be the bomber we thought we got. Not at all. Oh, I suppose he could have a nice year, at some point (given enough AB's) where he whacks 28 homers (if he's playing in Colorado), but he's an 18-20 homer type guy, way top-side, as a year in & out production level. I mean, this guy hit 24 homers in 773 MINOR LEAGUE PA's.
OK, good enough. Then you think, maybe he can rope the ball around the field like Mattingly.
Well, no.
OK, then. Maybe he's got a 100 point eye, to go with a bunch of gapper doubles, like Olerud.
Well, no.
What we have is some kind of a lesser hybrid 1B. How about calling him a lower BA Chris Chambliss? CC was a hybrid. Smoak has shown some recovery of late. Chambliss may have found a bit of a fix, but I'm moving forward cautiously before I'm all in on Smoak, or even mostly in. Chambliss was basically a 110 OPS+ guy. That's where I start my Smoak evaluation. I round down from there.
BTW, not only does he not rip 400 ft shots, but he doesn't hit a lot of smoke-trail line drives, either. Uh....this guy has 2 doubles in 171 PA's. He is showing some signs of life, so I'll give him that, but he isn't really dangerous. He hurt a hanging off-speed pitch last night. Good enough. But if you can't hurt that pitch once in a while then you shouldn't be a MLB 1B. And I'm still standing by my concern over his general athletic ability.
I thought he got fooled on the HR, but hung back well enough to flick the ball into the seats. That's improvement....getting fooled but getting good wood. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but hedging my bets.
When he finds his best success, it will not be as an everyday player. 250-350 PA's as a 1B/DH/PH complementary player. That's where he'll find his niche.
Saunders, on the other hard, has found his way out of the wilderness back to the .240, 20+ tater, nice glove guy we thought he might be TWO years ago. He's on pace for more than 50 extra-base hits. There's a critical mass that occurs when you get 4-5 guys in that area.
I'm back in his camp. OK, OK...call me fickle. Remember, though, I was never in Guti's camp. And Wells' camp doesn't exist anymore. So The Condor Camp it is. And it's a pretty warm/comfortable place.
Of course, we will have to see Guti at some point this year. He'll get his Olivo/Figgins time. I've always said that Guti's best role is as a 4th OF. Alas, we don't pay him like one. And goodness knows, we play guys we pay.
BTW, the Olivo and Figgins and League camps all sit in a landscape something like Mordor or that of the Battle of the Somme. Avoid them. Bring a gas mask if you don't.
Here's your Green Plate special, Moe's prediction of the week: We're going to see a Seager start at SS in this weekend. Bet on it.
Moe

3

Smoak right now is aimed at Ben Broussard (.260/.320/.450) for his UPside. That's absolutely not where we need Smoak targeted, nor where his skillset should have him targeted. Although it would sadly be a huge improvement on Justin's .225/.310/.375 major league line thus far.
You remember that Smoak had a similar batting eye in college to Dustin Ackley's, right? In the SEC, no chump baseball conference.
Justin: 151 BB / 107 Ks = 1.41 eye
Ackley: 133 BB / 82 Ks = 1.62 eye
Now, wood bats are different than aluminum, no doubt. But if I believe Ackley's .5 batting eye will get better because it was always great before...then Smoak's should improve along the same premise. He was never a blind hacker, absolutely not 9/40 level.
It's been timing. Smoak's timing has been atrocious. I actually kind of expect him to underperform at hitting doubles, thanks to his speed and his tendency to short-corner the ball on line-drives, leaving him to long singles or taters. But TWO is ridiculous, especially after he hit TWENTY in the first half of last year.
And the longer he hits like he has so far in the pros, the harder it is to believe the 25 HR / 25 2B Smoak still lingers, let alone hoping for any higher numbers. When he makes flush contact the ball goes places, but until this last week he was making flush contact about once every fortnight.
I hope Chambliss found the fix and it can stay fixed until Justin's legs heal. But he's just been a beat up sort of guy early on, which I guess means you can hope that a healthy Smoak can start crushing the ball. No matter what, he has to do it this year. His last two weeks he has a .790 OPS, with a .880 this last week. He hasn't been striking out this week either, which is nice to see. He just needs this week EVERY week. .880 should be his goal, not his high point, and .780 should be the LEAST we can expect from him.
And those lines are all power driven, which I suppose provides hope that he's not doing anything unusual other than re-discovering his power stroke - he's not getting too many lucky hits.
Now he's got to KEEP it. The Smoak we saw in April last year needs to be our first baseman going forward, or we're gonna have to do something like play Liddi at 1st 4 days a week just to climb out of the hole Smoak is putting our offense in.
We designed the offense around him. He's the switch-hitter in the heart of the order who can play vs righties or lefties and hit cleanup. He's the one who's supposed to allow us to run all these lefties out there.
We need you Justin. Be the ball. Our first basemen in the minors are eons away, and while Carp and Liddi might be able to do your job it works out better for us if YOU do it.
If he doesn't, though, I see a Carp/Liddi first base thing in our future while we add a Carlos Quentin or someone in Left.
I'd rather Smoak be bombing it for us thirty times and make it easy on us.
~G

5

Right now I'm with James:  a Carlos Pena career path.
Don't know how *durable* he's going to be, though.  Some guys are fragile, and he carries a lot of weight on that frame.

6
Anonymous's picture

A Carlos Pena career path is very similar to a Jay Buhner career path. Just to add some perspective. Buhner played until age 36 Pena is 34 and not likely to last much longer. Assuming that Pena's feeble .238 career average won't withstand age-loss at the plate.
Age 26 to 29 seasons.
Pena .256/.366/.532 136 OPS+
Buhner .259/.360/.478 126 OPS+
Pena had one monster season at age 29, it's the only reason he has a slight edge over Buhner.

7

Except that Pena never had two full years' worth of at-bats in which he hit worse than an anemic shortstop, which is what Smoak has. Smoak has a thousand plate appearances now and an OPS under .700.
Like I said, he's got to Carlos Pena it from here out, this year. I think that's where he should be, but only Justin can claim it. Otherwise, Adam Lind it is - and Smoak should be better than that. Good to see another HR last night. His timing looks to be recovering and he's swatting balls again instead of flailing at them or popping em up.
400 more PAs like this last week, please.
And this isn't to say I don't believe Smoak can have a Pena-esque career - I do. I've believed in Justin since Day One and I'm not stopping now. We just can't have another year like his last 365 days have been, or he won't be around. A .650 OPS isn't survivable on a power corner, "unlucky" or not.
~G

9

It's hard to believe they can carry this offense, true. I'm not worried about Ackley long-term. He's getting killed by lefties right now, but he'll adjust. It's part of the sophomore slump.
But it's why I didn't want so many sophomores in the lineup doing the heavy lifting. Do I think Carp and Smoak and Ackley will be hitting the ball hard at age 27? Yeah.
But we ain't there yet, and they have no cover right now. Edgar put up an atrocious partial season at age 26 (and 19 year old Junior wasn't great) but that lineup had Mr. Mariner and a couple of other vets in it.
This lineup has...well, Ryan leads the team in walks. Startling stat of the first two months, I guess.
Ackley has basically a full year's worth of at-bats now and .260/.335/.390 isn't where we want him for his career...but if he was, he's still be a seriously plus player, scarily enough.
Chase Utley over a similar period hit .260/.310/.435. Just gotta be patient. Ackley will get there - and I hope Smoak will too.
The difference with Ackley is that he's a useful 2B right NOW. Brandon Phillips is a ~3 WAR a year player falling out of bed (in a hitter's park) at .270/.330/.440. Ackley's been worth 3 - 4.5 (!!) so over the last year, depending on whether you like B-R or Fangraphs more.
Ackley can't carry an offense right now, but he's absolutely a contributor at that position, in this park. Justin Smoak has basically been the definition of a RLP in his 2 years in the bigs. We'd have done as well (or better) to have LaHair or Wilson or Poythress play there.
LaHair, btw, is killing it as a platoon bat in Chicago. The NL is perfect for his skillset since he destroys righties and is murdered by lefties. Who here would have taken a LaHair / Liddi platoon at first over the switch-hitting of Smoak so far?
Smoak's gotta hit, because somebody's got to shoulder the load. Having him put up a positionally-average line would be a nice start.
~G

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Chat: 8/3/15 7:02am
Interests: Strange Money (204063)
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-08-03 23:38

B-R has Rasmussen at 5'10".

2015-08-03 23:35

I think Lloyd was right about Carson Smith a couple of months back pointing out that he can't really go out there on back to back days the way Rodney can. It makes me curious what sort of off-season conditioning regimen someone like Carson Smith would use to build up his endurance.

2015-08-03 21:55

Only this team can almost blow that lead. Even with Felix.. no lead safe this year. As mentioned though..baseball tgere just isn't fair at times. I guess the playing field is all even, but not really and more of a crap shoot than not

2015-08-03 21:41

BTW - what is Rasmussen, 5'4"?

2015-08-03 21:37

Also looked like the CO air was stealing bite from everyone's offspeed stuff... Is Felix also "worse than overrated" based on his performance? Their starter also couldn't get a slider to bite for the life of him... welcome to mile high! Carson definitely looked tired and his slider didn't move, but he was poised, he didn't walk people to make it worse and... he got the save...

2015-08-03 21:34

I can certainly see why they were leery of him getting too much exposure. Looks like he's tired and overthrowing to me. Good way to get hurt.

2015-08-03 21:29

Well, Matt, I'll give you one thing... Your opinions are never luke-warm, either hot or cold... although also almost always... "worse than useless" ;) a month ago you were lauding Smith as uber closer and untouchable... So he had a mortal week... so sue him

2015-08-03 20:57

Carson Smith is worse than useless as a closer. He is probably one of those guys, like Nelson, that just can't do it.

2015-08-03 20:56

Carson Smith needs a week off. Or two. He's as scary right now as bad Rodney.

2015-08-03 19:26

HAHAHAHAA...Zunino getting greedy - for a WALK. Throws the bat away on ball three. :)

2015-08-03 18:33

Baseball in #Denver is a joke.

2015-08-03 18:32

7-1....I bet Felix can handle this.

2015-08-03 17:48

Brown: M's fired Wakamatsu mid-year.

2015-08-03 17:47

This is a pretty good article on Chapman's adjustment from Cuba... http://espn.go.com/m...

To be honest, I have a hunch that the M's have trouble growing players that aren't classical in the sense of family and friendliness. Felix is the epitome of this; he has a wife, two kids, a dog and is extremely media friendly. Cano also seems fairly family oriented, especially with his parents.

But flip it over to Sasaki, or any number of players that have had media or family or any sort of outlying trouble, and their exits can be seen from a mile away. Sasaki was only afforded a dignified, but very Japanese, exit.

2015-08-03 17:45

Ackley look-alike playing CF for the Rockies!

2015-08-03 17:07

Crap runs downhill...look at the top.. maybe this is beginning of the end for upper management.. will now within next few weeks.

2015-08-03 16:47

Right. I have no issue with Nuno getting the start but if they are just now talking about changing a culture of entitlement, well, that's a little odd.

2015-08-03 16:34

McC sez 'We are trying to change the culture here' with respect to Roenis Elias? That's way harsh as a public comment. It's also way harsh on himself, if the culture needs to begin changing at the year-and-a-half mark. Not annoyed; mystified. McC's frustration and "visible sinking feeling" aura in the dugout ... it's quite a contrast to Pete Carroll imposing his personality on everybody around him including the media.

2015-08-03 16:28

Ya I see more likely them staying.. just cuz really the end is pretty close at this point. I do not see the Ms making a run at .500 though. Nothing has shown them to have that in them this year. No.matter the strength of schedule. If Lloyd and Jack are here come end of Aug.. they certainly will play out contract. If memory serves me Ms coaches usually play through contract also.

2015-08-03 15:41

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the addition of Montero etc, a weaker 2nd half schedule, that the M's go on a bit of a run, maybe even get back to .500 by seasons end and as a result Lloyd and Jack stick around.

2015-08-03 14:49

I think they are in fact going to stay the rest of the year. Because the gettings will be better for their replacements in the off-season.

2015-08-03 14:38

Gnatto... hope you are wrong about Lloyd and Jack playing through contract... but definately should prepare for that. I am just hoping for the notification of otherwise, but don't see any movement there

2015-08-03 14:23

Why would you reward Elias's 7plus ERA with a callup? Jesus Montero had to lead the entire PCL in hitting (.346) before he got his second callup. Elias has been terrible in Tacoma since he was sent down. You call him up now, and what you are saying is that you can just mail it in in Tacoma.

2015-08-03 13:52

Regarding Nuno over Elias... this may be Jack trying to accomplish two things... build up Nuno's value, as well as making Elias hungry

2015-08-03 12:59

I think we may need to prepare ourselves for Lloyd and Jack to play out their contract.

2015-08-03 12:05

Toward the end of his last call-up, Elias wasn't very good...not just talking runs or K/BB/HR...I'm talking pitchability and repeating his delivery. He looked...out of sorts. Distracted.

There was a reason he got sent down. Happ didn't do any better, but they had to keep him up to showcase him for trade.

Honestly...I love Elias' potential and his pitch mix. And I generally like his poise out there. But I do worry that he was rushed emotionally. From desperate Cuban ballplayer who was largely overlooked to rotation mainstay with only a brief and lukewarm stint in A+/AA before his arrival.

2015-08-03 10:09

Sabr.. you may be on to something in regards to Elias.. look at Puig. Still trying to adjust to all the stardom. Don't feel it's anything racial.. just cultural. Esp in Puig regard in big city like LA, but still the #Money and dramatic change of scenary in #Seattle can def be attributed. Moe definately highlighted that he has been good though. Everyone's gunna have a shaky game here and there buy compared to most of the team he has been consistent.

2015-08-03 08:09

Too cryptic for me. It just soulnds like an "after the fact" continuing defense of choosing Happ in the rotation over Elias. Hey, it was a pick 'em perhaps....although I would have preferred we pick Elias. Nonetheless, Elias has been pretty good as a MLB starter this year, minus two terrible outings: In 7 of his 13 starts he gave up 2 runs or less. In 3 others he game up 3 runs. So in 77% of his starts, he went 5.2 to 8 innings and gave up 3 runs or less. He had one start of 5.1 innings with 4 runs. And then he had two terrible starts w/7 combined innings and 14 ER's. Take those 2 starts away and he's running an ERA of less than 3 over 11 starts. In his last 10 starts in '14 he gave up 2 runs or less (although 1 was a 4 inning outing and another was 3 innings. So basically he's got a 24 start run of impressive stuff. But I suppose he doesn't fit the M's "culture." Montero didn't either. I don't blame Elias for being frustrated. He's been better than decent in the Majors!

2015-08-03 08:05

I guess Elias got tossed from the game after he got taken out the other day, too. So maybe some frustration bubbling up for him?

2015-08-03 08:00

Right Matt, that's the sort of thing we don't have a window on. For all we know Lloyd's decision could be precisely the right one. By the way, this "change the culture" mantra, though in general a good thing, seems to be taken too far sometimes. Imagine how this season might have gone if Montero had been on the big club earlier and allowed to play his way into regular PT. But no, we had to bludgeon Montero's lesson into his head in a display of overkill while we watched LoMo flail against LHP.

2015-08-03 07:40

Maybe Elis took himself too seriously this year and acted too big for his own head? It happens sometimes with Cuban players (and no...that's not a racial thing...it's a cultural one)

2015-08-03 07:38

The "change the culture" comment by Lloyd did come across as a little #Strange. I'm sure for him there's a context that makes this a decisive factor for him. Some factors of that context may be opaque to us. But it's hard to fathom why, the team having rightly given up on making the playoffs this season, the primary consideration is giving Elias a chance to reestablish himself as a bona fide member of the rotation going forward (or a serious trade chip if needed). By the way, if McClendon wants to change the culture he should invite #Lincoln and Zduriencik to lunch and suggest that they all resign immediately.

2015-08-03 07:27

My lack of faith simply keeps sinking. If that's a true quote, that'll be my newest gripe after him using Marte at leadoff.

2015-08-03 07:10

Lloyd said that? What the heck does that mean? Maybe we need to start w/the manager's chair.

2015-08-03 07:02

I guess with Elias getting torched in AAA, Nuno gets the start on Tuesday. I got a chuckle over Lloyd's "we are trying to change the culture here" comments regarding why Elias wasn't being brought up.

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