POTD - The Macro Trend to Big Players, 3

=== Future's So Large I Gotta Wear Shades, Dept. ===

It hits me tonight that what I hated about the recent Mariners teams was the tiny players at every corner slot:

  • Figgins 3b
  • Ichiro lf
  • Endy Chavez, lf
  • Casey Kotchman, 1B (plays as a small 1b)

Joe Morgan once scoffed at a team for having non-HR players at the corners.  "That gives you an unbalanced ball club," he growled.  Joe was a tiny player himself, now.

*Unbalanced.*  Perhaps Joe was intuiting that the lack of power could create domino effects in the tactical game on the field?

A team that signs Chone Figgins as its key FA, already has Ichiro in RF, and then selects 9-homer Casey Kotchman as its UZR/Moneyball first baseman?  That's an unbalanced ball club.  It's a 1970's ball club.


All that time that I was arguing UZR vs offense, my heart wasn't really in it.  I like defense!  My Big Red Machine played dazzling defense.

What I meant was:  you can't punt offensive power.  Especially not in the name of being clever.  HR's and RBI's are the 21st-century game.  

You can't bring knives to a gunfight.  The Texas Rangers are going to hit the ball out of the yard on you, gentlemen.  You'd better do the same.

Of course, in Safeco that means lefty power.  Six of the seven HR's against Tampa were lefty.  That's the right ratio here.  :- )


The Mariners' recent moves have been overwhelmingly towards getting larger and more powerful:

  • Peguero and Wilson were the choices for LF trials
  • Saunders was OK'ed for CF (not a Tyson Gillies type, or an NRI speedster)
  • Smoak and Montero the targets in the Lee deal (not little Minnesota prospects)
  • Dustin Ackley, a very small LF, moved to 2B where he's a powerful 2B
  • Mike Carp and Alex Liddi may get the next trials
  • Greg Halman was the choice for D in CF
  • Adam Kennedy is a relatively slow, powerful second baseman

The rotation, I think, is already NBA-ready.  :- )  Gimme a lineup full of 21st-century baseball players, the big strong kind, and let's see where this rotation goes.


=== Pollyanna, Dept. ===

Cust's long HR to the power alley sort of blew my hair back, what little of it there is left. You wondered, idly, whether the ball was going to start going out (and falling in!) for the M's once the weather warmed up.  Maybe Cust, in his last year or two, needs that little thumb on the scale:  70-degree weather.  It's a nice thought.

The Mariners have baseball's 2nd-worst HR/F rate, and its 5th-worst BABIP, though their team EYE is in the top third.

Some of that is due to just having feeble hitters.  But perhaps the warm hitting weather will provide a boost to the M's hitters.  Meanwhile, when the weather warms up, the enemy is still going to have to deal with Felix and Pineda.






The funny thing is that in '09, when we last had success, the M's were a big, powerful team.
Griffey, Branyan, Lopez, Sweeney, even Beltre are biggish guys. Yuni was fat.  That team had 5 positions where they wer over 40- x-base hits, 3 of them over 50.  They have 31 homes from Branyan and 25 from Lopez and around 25 from the Griffey/Sweeney platoon. 
The next year Z reinvented it as a punch and Judy team. He sign a cruddy, non-bonking 1B, replaced Beltre with a UZR guy, didn't sign power to replace Griffey and brought him back in a medicare tour, etc.
Perhaps Z is moving back to the future. 
Sure wish he would bring up Lou Whitaker, er...D. Ackley, right now.
10 years of .280-.360-.440 at 2B would be pretty cool wouldn't it.  That would be Whitaker....er...Ackley

IcebreakerX's picture

The teams the M's played with good defense and won never were lightweight teams. They were teams with good defense with players that were at least average or better on the offensive side.
That said, the M's DID switch Figgins to 2B last year, which fits your hypothesis too, much in the mold the M's moved Ackley to 2B as well (though they failed to scout Figgins' personality and subsequent implosion).
At the same time, this is clear exhibit A why you can't easily punt the season in the off-season. Cust was a shrewd play, as was Olivo and Ryan. But trying to get a LF or 3B with any semblence of offense may (or may not) have made this team far better than it is now.

RockiesJeff's picture

Jeff, as you know, there was more to the 70's than small ball, bell bottoms and disco. The BIG Red Machine, the O's under Weaver, the Dodgers (didn't they have 4 hit 30 or more at least two of the seasons in late 70's?), Yanks when George S took over... I still can't believe the excitement that led to Figgins and such. At least if you have some little guys, you hope they understand they are to make contact more often in order to utilize their legs? I would never understate the need for defense. But if you are hitting .200, you should be required to have the magical ability to somehow play two positions at once.
Well said!

Taro's picture

When the Ms could both hit and defend, they tended to have big guys play in the middle. Boone, Cameron, and Guillen were all guys that could play good D, but were strongly-built and some of the better hitters on the team. 


Well, things would be a lot better if the "little/defensive first players" were actually "good" players.
If Figgins, Jack Wilson, Saunders, etc weren't hitting shockingly far below expectations (alond with a badly slumping Ichiro) things would look a lot different.
We're trying to make small ball work with 50 ops+ players, not 90 ops+ players.


The 2011 M's don't prove anything.  Will cheerfully concede that in a heartbeat.But for a guy firmly convicted of the syndrome prior, it's a bit distressing to see a set of symptoms fit again :- )Like we sez, the systemic cause of the 2010-11 collective underperformance hasn't been diagnosed yet...But yeah.  Get some 90 OPS+ little guys to go with Smoak and this club would be fine.

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