...... 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)


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




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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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Chat: 6/29
Interests: SportsHistory Book (179597)
SSI Weekend chat
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-06-30 18:33

I believe even further, and to piggy back off trade talk of earlier, I said trade him while he can yield some crop

2015-06-30 18:14

I did post on Paxton about a week ago and do contest that an injury is immenant. I hope for the best but pray for the worst. The flamethrowers today just end up getting Tommy John sooner and sooner

2015-06-30 17:59

@RyanDivish: Paxton is now playing catch 60 feet. "This is going to be a slow process for Paxton," McClendon said. "Pax is going to be out for a while."

2015-06-30 17:54

@RyanDivish: Nelson Cruz said he was asked to participate in the HR derby and declined.

2015-06-30 17:05

Had to google what a "varlet" is. This is traditional SSI. The shtick runs circles around the subject matter.

2015-06-30 16:52

Zduriencik may not get the pick outright..but you know he gets any tiebreakers and his vote carries the most weight. Given that is his job and what he gets paid to do. That being said.. what worked on #Milwaukee is not working here. Surprised he has lasted as long as he has.

2015-06-30 16:39

Re: use of the Shout Box - got it. What Josh said. 'ave at it ye varlets :- )

2015-06-30 16:12

We should also note right about now that Zduriencik is horrible in the first round of the draft. Of course, I'm the one that always pops on about how McNamara actually runs the draft, but most people seem to think round 1 is usually Zduriencik's pick.

2015-06-30 16:09

Regarding Smoak and Montero, I think it's useful to note Zduriencik's bias even back then for bat-first, one-dimensional players. To be fair, if those bats had blossomed, the story might have been different. We'd be singing Zduriencik's praises right now. But they didn't, and because neither player is of much use defensively, those trades were basically zeros.

2015-06-30 15:46

#Jackson in CF vs. the NL RHP tonight....very interesting in this regard: Lloyd isn't sold on any Ackley rebound. Kudos to Lloyd for that......but negative kudos (what ever that is) for not realizing that #Jackson's .604 OPS vR is actually less than Ackley's .606!! Ackley has a 10-31 BB/K rate and #Jackson 10/42. Maybe the play is #Jackson......but it does indicate that Lloyd is pretty sour on Ackley, even with the recent 3-hit game.

2015-06-30 15:26

To try to answer your question Doc about 7 years ago...
I doubt it makes a difference with the Cliff Lee trade, as Smoak was supposed to be power plus OBP...
It may have made a difference with the Pineda trade, but again Montero was supposed to be power with great hit ability...
The dreaded Fister trade was to get Wells, who was a young unproven OF with moderate power and good OBP... so I doubt a difference there..
Figgins definitely happens.
Ackley definitely happens.
#Austin #Jackson definitely happens.
Maybe we have Springer versus Hultzen, but I am hard pressed to find any other easy changes.

2015-06-30 15:16

Hey everyone! I just wanted to follow up with what Jemanji is asking of you regarding shouts. We see no problem with multiple shouts - you can write one big one or 100 smaller ones. There is no limit. We use the shouts as a part of our testing so we do not want anything to limit that, instead please feel free to email me (or help@neongecko.com) with suggestions on how to make things work better when people write too many shouts... but, again, discouraging shouts - or any content - is the last thing we want (even considering recent issues). So, please feel free to use the shout box as much and as often as you like! Thank you.

2015-06-30 15:06

Of course, we all know that OBP doesn't happen in a vacuum. Most of the time, it correlates with the ability to hit with power. Skilled hitter + Slugging > low zone% > more walks and higher OBP. The problem with Trumbo is that he doesn't have the strong hitting skill to go along with his power. He's still a major league player, just not a very good one. Plus, his glove isn't very useful.

2015-06-30 14:55

ok - I fixed the bug that was kicking you off of the blog pages and back to the home page. Thanks for reporting the bugs -- we/I can fix them when we know about them...

2015-06-30 14:39

1) As far as the site being buggy today … guess that makes it open season on the Shout Box … not that it isn't usually. 2) the Keith Law rip on Zduriencik is an interesting one; he makes the very simple accusation that Jack Zduriencik does not value offensive OBP as much as do, say, the #Texas Rangers. Every sabermetrician alive, including those in Zduriencik's employ, has heard that a marginal point of OBP is worth 3x as much as a marginal point of SLG. Zduriencik, I had thought, values *talent,*, giftedness in the batter's box, more than sabermetric formulas (relative to some other GM's). Law's idea is annoyingly condescending but, sometimes, simple ideas are worth pondering. Had Zduriencik been told 7 years ago "Psssst. Go for OBP." would that have made a difference?

2015-06-30 14:35

Castro was an interesting piece, but we got back someone to take PT from the black hole that is Ackley (Trumbo), and also Nuno, who has many years of cheap team control *and* can start. Now we have a surplus of LH starters that can be used to flip for another piece.

2015-06-30 14:34

Browns my man … if you'd put that string of 5 one-liners into one Shout, then it wouldn't have pushed everybody else's ideas off the front page. Please be aware of this. Thanks, Moderator

2015-06-30 14:22

And although it was just some prospects for trumbo... it was still potential talent for a definate avg to mediocre guy. Lots of question marks on that deal

2015-06-30 14:10

I think the Trumbo deal really sealed it for me with Jack Zduriencik. I thought the move to bring in Welington Castillo made sense. It was a low-profile move, but it made sense to bring in another catcher that you feel like you can send out there twice a week or whatever. But getting rid of that guy in favor of a one-dimensional power hitter just didn't make sense to me.

2015-06-30 13:57

Regarding Cruz, if it was me I'd mostly be interested in getting his salary off the #Books.

2015-06-30 13:55

The site is acting buggy right now. When I open up an individual blog post, it's fine for a few seconds but then there seems to be some kind of refresh that kicks me out and sends me back to the main page.

2015-06-30 13:53

don't think we'll get much for Cruz unless he finishes strong this season. Needs to end the year with career-best totals for us to win any trade involving him.

2015-06-30 13:14

I could see Cruz getting flipped. With 3 years left on his deal, the new GM may not want to risk carrying the risk of his age 36, 37, and 38 seasons if someone else is willing to take it on.

2015-06-30 13:03

Yep, the new guy will be expected to be different from the old guy. Everyone can deliver on being different. Being better? aye there's the rub.

2015-06-30 12:52

I agree with GLS. Not in favor of massive roster moves..historically no matter the sport..new regime equals immediate changes.

2015-06-30 12:46

If they have a mandate to win now, the newcomer will off-load contracts that interfere with adding better talent if he can...and will otherwise trade away all of Z's prospects but the ones in which he actually believes, as Z did with Bavasi's. You will see an epic string of prospect swaps.

2015-06-30 12:36

Getting back to the Mariners, I'm not necessarily advocating huge roster churn so much as that's simply the direction that I see things going. It seems like a virtual certainty at this point that Zduriencik will be replaced with someone. We don't know who that is yet, but what we do know is that with Felix, Cano, and Seager all signed long term, the new GM will have much more of a "win now" mandate. Probably, that means taking a fresh look at the roster, top to bottom, and then doing some wheeling and dealing to try and right the ship.

2015-06-30 11:45

Then again he has a strong run game and D that you think of first when thinking of the Hawks. Nevertheless, pay the man

2015-06-30 11:44

One ring to boot..and DHOULD have a second

2015-06-30 11:44

He also has the most wins ever by a qb in their first 3 years.

2015-06-30 11:43

I think he will end up being highest paid. Anymore when a franchise qb redoes their contract it seems like they end up being highest paid. FLACCO and Rodgers most recently

2015-06-30 11:42

Sadly though they need to make him whole at the same time. 8 backup qbs make more than he does currently

2015-06-30 11:42

I agree he needs to.finally get a contract, and it shoukd.be a ton.. just dunno.about highest paid

2015-06-30 11:26

I would do it. Franchise QBs don't grow on trees.

2015-06-30 11:17

I know it's a change of subject, but it's going to be huge offseason story. What do we think about making Wilson the highest payed player in the NFL

2015-06-30 11:15

Great point. I sure wouldn't goto a squad with a #History of just trade baiting

2015-06-30 11:13

A Marlinificated fire #Sale is the last degradation before the Mariners lose all respect and credibility. Vot next? Zduriencik for Manager? The problem is that if you blow up too much, no respectable free agent will sign with you because he won't want to get bounced to a different team every July. Buy low, sell high. Now, Mariners' field stock is at a low point. HOLD. You heard it here first.

2015-06-30 11:08

Ya. Any time their is a regime change you have to almost expect it. Someone is going

2015-06-30 10:31

I wouldn't sell at the deadline. Not much point in that. But, I'll say again, in the offseason, when the new GM comes in, I expect there will be some wheeling and dealing. Walker, Paxton, Elias, #Montgomery, Zunino, Miller, Taylor - some or all of those guys could go in exchange for other pieces.

2015-06-30 08:52

Ya. Don't blow it up.. gotta wait on it. Braves made some sense to blow it up. Farm system got much better REAL fast

2015-06-30 08:11

Yeah, once again we are just good enough (and without tradable assets) to not get much benefit from blowing it up. Really have to hope for all the under performers to turn it around. We are going to age fast too.. our window is probably next year and *maybe* 2017.

2015-06-30 08:04

Unfortunately I keep thinking it will happen...and it just hasnt. Glimpses at best

2015-06-30 08:03

I agree. They have to just ride it out at this point and hope things come together.

2015-06-30 07:40

If the M's become sellers at the deadline, who can really be traded - not just dumped but actually traded for something of value? Happ? Trumbo? Furbush? Morrison? What, realistically, are you going to get for those guys? A #2 catcher? A bullpen arm? A few flawed prospects?

The org is going to need the young starters in order to have any shot at fielding a competitive roster in 16, so I have to think that Walker, Paxton and Elias are off limits. Ditto Felix and Seager. Cano is not tradeable. Cruz...I guess could get moved but then they are right back trying to find a RH bat to hit in the heart of the order for 16, so I think not.

2015-06-30 07:07

I mean our record is similiar to the ATL braves... a team who just got rid of everyone. Got a bunch of avg older vets and some young nobodies..

2015-06-30 07:03

Really hoping for a good run these next games b4 the break. Gotta live teams that look good on paper