Eric Thames has done some things Mariners fans aren’t used to, like swinging his bat really hard, hitting the baseball, sending it a long way. Sometimes even over the fence! Thames has slowly moved up the lineup since being traded, and to this point has delivered, producing a positively un-Mariner-like .286/.318/.540 line. He probably won’t continue to be that good, because if he was that good, we wouldn’t have gotten him for Steve Delabar. Also, he’s only had 66 plate appearances as a Mariner. So how good can we expect him to be? Let’s find out, with numbers!
First, let’s take a look at Thames’ career numbers, since they provide us with a much larger sample than just his short time with the Mariners. In roughly a full season’s worth of plate appearances (620), Thames is the owner of a .260/.307/.442 line, good for a 102 wRC+. His main skill, then, would obviously be power, with a .182 career isolated slugging percentage. He’s got a contact rate of 76.2%, which isn’t exceptional, but places him next to the 2012 numbers guys like Bryce Harper (75.4%), Shin-Soo Choo (75.9%), Adam Jones (76.1%) and Nick Swisher (76.2%). So, some good company, to be sure. Contact rate generally stabilizes quickly, so we can probably say that Thames contact rate will stay in that general area.
The main thing holding Thames back from becoming an above-average hitter to this point is his walk rate. In the major leagues, Thames has taken walks in just 5.6% of his plate appearances. That’s about as often as Ichiro and Jeff Francouer have walked this year. (Hint: That’s bad.) But fear not! Or fear just a little, I guess. But still, there’s reason to believe that he will improve! Throughout the minors, Thames has consistently walked at average or above-average rates, including a mark of 11.3% in 231 plate appearances in AAA this year. Altogether, he walked in 9.5% of his minor-league plate appearances, putting him pretty close to Kyle Seager’s minor-league mark of 10.4%. Seager took some time to find any patience at the MLB level, but he’s shown improvement this season. Like Seager, Thames will likely never walk 100 times, or even take walks at an above-average rate, but he probably could be a clearly above-average bat if he even got his walk rate close to league average. It’s not impossible–it took Miguel Cabrera three seasons before his walk rate got over 10% in the major leagues.
The best comparison I was able to find for Thames as a complete offensive player is Ike Davis. Davis takes a few more walks, but their contact rates and isolated slugging are nearly the same. Davis is the owner of a .252/.332/.449 career line, with a slightly below-average BABIP. I can see Thames, in the best-case scenario, doing something similar with that skillset, maybe something to the tune of .265/.330/.470 or so, with around 25 bombs, as long as he doesn’t have to face too many lefties. While he’s not a great defender, in this offensively deprived version of baseball we are witnessing now, that package may add up to a 2-3 WAR player. Of course, he could also just fall apart and become replacement level, plenty of players with his skillset have done just that. But, for Steve Delabar, that’s a risk I’m glad the Mariners were willing to take.
Wow. Watching last night’s game from my small Pullman apartment made me wish that I hadn’t chosen to move in a week ago today. Yes, the first Felix home start I’ve missed in awhile was the perfecto. Yes, the second one was last night. No, I’m not happy about it, even if I know being here at college is the right decision. That being said, I felt quite a bit of joy for this last week of Mariners games, and last night especially. Last night reminded me of when I was young, and when the Mariners were good. The sea of yellow was fantastic, and I hope so badly that we see more of the Supreme court. Here are some random, unorganized thoughts from last night’s game.
- My first thought was that Felix Hernandez’s wife wasn’t in attendance for the perfect game. She was there last night. Felix gave up a hit to the first batter he faced in an 0-2 count. I think Mrs. Hernandez may be asked to stay home for the next start.
- In the bottom of the first, Michael Saunders appeared to strike out on a 2-2 breaking ball by Roberto Hernandez. He clearly had made contact, and chopped the ball off the ground into the catcher’s glove. The umpire instead ruled that the catcher had caught the ball, and that it was strike three. Saunders said the ball hit the ground, and the home plate umpire checked with the third base umpire, who correctly ruled that the ball had bounced. Saunders grounded out two pitches later, but I was impressed to see the umpires ask each other for help, and get the call right. I don’t think most crews would do that.
- Jesus Montero is just the slowest. Like, literally the slowest.
- I should probably mention that Felix gave up four hits in the first three innings. None of them hit very hard, and I thought Smoak was going to get a glove on Kipnis’ grounder. That makes you realize just how ridiculous it is to throw a perfect game. A little parachute job or a grounder that just gets under your first baseman’s glove will ruin everything. Throwing a perfect game is really fucking hard. We should appreciate Felix even more than we do!
- What’s in a name? That which we called a Carmona; by any other name would throw just as many balls.
- Trayvon Robinson has some crazy ridiculous range. He needs it, with his wet noodle of an arm. But that’s not meant to take anything away from him. He’s made some fantastic catches in his short time up with the team. It seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen diving catches, and I’m talking legitimate diving catches, not show-off-for-sportscenter diving catches.
- Eric Thames is fucking beast-man. I don’t know think he’ll be a superstar, but I can definitely see a 2-3 WAR player in him. Also, I’ve always thought home runs are the best way to break up a no-hitter, too. That has nothing to do with my analysis of Thames, but it’s awesome.
- Seeing most fans in the stadium wearing yellow T-Shirts, waving K cards for Felix is so heartwarming. This is what we could have if the Mariners got good! Get good, Mariners! Please! I want to be there for a night like this!
- John Jaso is so fucking good. A great approach to look for a meatball early in the count after Roberto Hernandez’s control problems, thinking he would throw a “get ahead” type of pitch. Yes, a better left fielder may have caught his opposite-field, ground-rule double, but it was deep enough to at least bring the tying run in as a sac fly, even if it had been caught. Hell, it probably would’ve been gone in a lot of other ballparks. Jaso seems to have a great idea of when to be aggressive and when to wait a pitcher out. I’d like to see him get 350-400 PAs as a platoon catcher and part-time DH next season.
- Jesus Montero is so strong. When he hit his home run, I thought it was gone, but I thought it would be a liner just over the fence. Instead, it hit the facade of the second deck in left-center field. It was a low-and-inside pitch, and Montero simply ruined it. Hit Tracker puts it at 437 feet, leaving the bat at a ridiculous 113 MPH. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
- Felix walked off to maybe the loudest ovation I’ve heard from him. He deserves it. Another great performance. 7.2 IP with 5 Ks, 1 BB, and 10 groundouts to 3 flyouts may not be as sexy as his high-K lines, but Felix appeared in control for most of the game. Felix says sucks to your perfecto hangovers.
- Dustin Ackley made a fantastic play to end the 8th inning. Diving to his right, I thought he would have no time to get the ball to first or second to record the final out, but he made a fantastic, accurate, shuffle to 2B to end the inning and preserve Felix’s line. anyone who said he can’t play 2B is retarded, as he came in to this week (UZR is only updated on Sundays) with +7.6 runs above average this year, and +9.9 in his career. As long as his bat comes around, there should be no talk of moving him off of second.
All right, well, if you took the time to read that, you’re my favorite. Thanks, favorite! A night like last night was one of the most fun nights in Mariner history. It’s up to the players to continue playing well to keep people coming out, but it appears Seattle has the capacity to care about baseball. Imagine that. Don’t fuck it up, Mariners!!
Stefen Romero hits, hits, then he hits, and then he hits, until he hits again, then he keeps hitting
I was discussing Mariners prospects with a good friend of mine a few weeks ago when he mentioned the name Stefen Romero, who is a 6’3″, 225-pound monster currently spending most of his time at second base (though he is listed as a 3B for whatever reason) for the Jackson Generals down in AA. A quick glance at his eye-popping numbers might make one wonder why he’s not found his way onto more prospect lists, but one number might tell us why: 23. Romero is 23-years-old, which is certainly old for AA ball, but that being said, his numbers are still too good to ignore.
Romero, a right-handed hitter, joined the organization as a 12th-round pick out of Oregon State University in 2010, and didn’t see any game action until 2011. For a 12th-round pick, he impressed with the Clinton LumberKings, the Mariners A-ball team, to the tune of a .280/.342/.462 line, slugging 16 homers in under 500 plate appearances. A respectable debut, though, at 22, he was old for the league. The Mariners were playing him like an organizational kind of guy, and I doubt anyone was too pumped about a 22-year-old without a clear position for the future running an .804 OPS in A-ball. Coming in to 2012, Romero just looked like another guy.
This year, the Mariners started him out with High Desert of the Cal League, the advanced A-ball league, which is known to be a hitters paradise. Romero didn’t disappoint, raking to the tune of a .357/.391/.581 line, with 33 extra-base hits (11 homers) in just 276 PAs. Romero also managed to do this while striking out a mere 12.7% of the time. Impressive, to be sure, but any time a player has offensive success in the Cal League, you can’t help but wonder how much of it has to do with the fact that the league is the most hitter-friendly league in the minors, and High Desert is one of the best places in the already offensive-minded league to hit. Clearly, Romero needed more of a challenge, so he was called up to the Jackson Generals.
Somehow, despite more advanced competition, and more neutral ballparks, Romero has actually gotten better with the Generals. His AA line is now .339/.390/.607, with 9 homers. His strikeout rate has gotten marginally worse at 14.7%, but that is still really, really good. Romero’s walk rate has also gone up from 4.7% in High Desert to 6.3% in Jackson. That’s still unacceptably low, but the progress is what’s important here. It’s only 207 plate appearances, but it seems like AA is not challenging enough for Romero.
I’d say the odds are good that Romero will begin 2013 in AAA, with a chance to be up with the big club for an audition by mid-May or early June, if he continues to rake like this. In my opinion, he’s worthy of a cup of coffee this September, as the organization clearly isn’t betting on him, and likely doesn’t care as much about his service time as seeing what he can do. Yoervis Medina would be a good player to get the boot from the 40-man in such a scenario, however, it’s more likely that we see him added when Miguel Olivo and/or Chone Figgins go away this offseason.
So will Romero be a star? Will he even be average? How much should his age matter when considering his future? I don’t know. I can’t answer any of those questions, which I know is a bit of a cop-out. What I do know, though, is that Romero has done everything he can to put himself in the minds of Mariners fans as a potential part of the future, which is infinitely more than anyone thought when he was drafted two years ago. Romero may not end up being anything, but he’s certainly earned himself a chance to prove that he can be something.
So, who would’ve guessed that on May 19th Kyle Seager would lead the Mariners in OPS? And who would’ve guessed that that would mean Kyle Seager was doing really well, instead of the rest of the team being very bad? Hey you lying assholes, put your hands down!
In all seriousness, though, Kyle Seager has done a fantastic job this season, and statistics seem to back up that his fantastic hitting could be at least somewhat sustainable. He’s posting an 85.9% contact rate this season, and his O-Swing % (percentage of the time he swings at balls outside the strike zone) is at 31.7%, which is lower than Giancarlo Stanton, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, and Miguel Cabrera. So don’t be fooled by that 2.8% walk rate. As Jeff Sullivan said at Lookout Landing, Seager is simply hitting pitches before he gets four balls. Also, his walk rates of 11% in A-ball, 8.7% in AA-ball, and 9.4% in AAA-ball reflect that Seager is capable of drawing more free passes in the future. Paired with his excellent ability to make contact, it’s not unreasonable to expect Seager to continue to hit for a fairly good average, as well as get on base more often than his .310 OBP would suggest.
Most striking, however, is the development of Seager’s power. He’s always shown decent, gap-like power in the minor leagues, posting an isolated power mark of .146. That number has improved to .204 after today’s 3-4, HR, BB game, and while it’s not likely that Seager will continue to hit for that kind of power, he’s showing that there’s more pop in his bat than originally thought. He’s said in various interviews that he added muscle this offseason with the intention of hitting the ball harder, and so far it has paid off. Even with his low walk rate, he’s managed a 124 wRC+, which means he’s been 24% better than a league-average hitter in 2012.
Kyle Seager has only had 344 career plate appearances in the majors, and I don’t expect him to continue to hit like he has so far in 2012–.292/.310/.496–in the future. That being said, all of his indicators are good, and if his walk rate returns to something more normal for him, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he could turn into a .300/.350/.450 type of hitter. Pair it with his so-far excellent glove, which has earned him +3.5 UZR at 3rd and +0.9 at 2nd so far, and it’s not far-fetched to believe that Kyle Seager could be a 3-4 WAR third baseman in the major leagues for the next few years.
At the start of this season, there was some hope that Chone Figgins may not be a complete disaster again. That hope started very small, and was likely nurtured by the fact that everyone is hopeful around spring training, but the Mariners had high enough hopes that they decided to give Figgins a shot at the lead off role. Much was said about how if he were just put back into the role he had most recently had success in, that somehow, that success would come back.
At first, Figgins looked a little different. He seemed to be hitting the ball with more authority to my eye, and was working deeper into counts, much like he did when he was a successful player for the Angels. However, any player can look like a world-beater or a chump over a small enough sample size. (How’s that one Pujols guy doing right now, anyway?)
We’re now a full month into the season, and Chone Figgins has been a complete disaster again. While it’s still early, Figgins has already come to the plate 104 times this season, and so far there are no reasons to believe that he’s gotten any better, or will get better. In fact, he’s looking worse than ever in several key areas. His 82.8% contact rate is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season; conversely, his swinging strike rate of 6.7% is the second highest of his career since his rookie season. You just can’t strike out 26% of the time as a lead off man, unless you’re taking a ton of walks–which, of course Figgins is not doing. In the past, Figgins has at least been able to get on base via the walk, but last season Figgins posted a 6.7% walk rate. This season, Chone Figgins has a 7.7% walk rate.
Chone Figgins is 34 years old, and over the 105 games he’s played from 2011 until now, he has been worth -1.8 WAR. Only Adam Dunn has been less valuable than Figgins in that time span. Chone Figgins has a 66 wRC+ with his .198/.260/.319 line this season. Chone Figgins has been worth -4.9 runs in the field by UZR. Chone Figgins is also, as of this writing, still the lead off hitter for the Seattle Mariners, taking at-bats that could be given to promising players like Mike Carp or Casper Wells. But the leash is getting shorter. Don’t be surprised if Chone Figgins is no longer playing baseball for the Seattle Mariners in the next week or two. Whenever it happens, it won’t be soon enough.
The regular season is finally upon us–again! After one of the strangest weeks of non-meaningful baseball coming after meaningful baseball, meaningful baseball is about to start happening again, and there’s a few interesting things that have happened in that time span.
First of all is the Mariners’ decision to start Jason Vargas instead of Felix Hernandez, giving Felix an extra tune-up start in Peoria. This means that technically, Jason Vargas will be starting two games in a row. As Larry Stone noted, this isn’t quite as unusual as one might think; in the past, teams have used the all-star break as an opportunity to start their best pitcher in two consecutive games. At first I had some trepidation about the A’s facing Vargas twice in a row, but it’s not really quite what it seems–after all, the A’s had to play five more spring training games too, so Vargas should look fresh to A’s hitters again.
The second thing of note in the last week has been Felix Hernandez’s velocity. After reportedly not reaching more than 91 MPH in Tokyo, all eyes were on Felix in his tune-up start to see if his velocity would go up a tick. It didn’t, as the King topped out at 91 MPH in those four innings of work. I’m unworried, however. If you watched the game, you’d see that Felix still has his usual command and movement, and pitching coach Carl Willis hasn’t noticed any mechanical changes in his delivery. Personally, I’m assuming at least some of the velocity will come back, but even if it doesn’t, I’m not worried. Felix can still be the best pitcher in the American League topping out at 91 MPH.
Finally, in somewhat of a surprising move, the Mariners elected to carry 3B/1B Alex Liddi on the roster instead of OF Carlos Peguero in Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez’s absence. It’s surprising because the Mariners seemed very high on Peguero, who crushed 5 homers and slugged .588 in 53 spring training plate appearances. Peguero’s discipline was still terrible, though. He walked only twice and struck out 18 times. His big power is certainly tantalizing to the Mariners, but they made the right decision in ticketing him for Tacoma. I’m not very high on Peguero, but if he’s going to have any chance in the Majors, he needs to work on his approach. That’s easier to do in Tacoma against bad pitchers than in the Majors against good pitchers.
While Liddi certainly earned his way onto the team with a .370/.453/.587 line in spring training, it’s unlikely that he’ll see much playing time. The fallout of this move is that it makes Chone Figgins the Mariners’ regular left fielder while Mike Carp is gone, and allows Kyle Seager to have at least a week in the starting lineup. Seager may not turn out to be a star, but all he’s done at any level in his career is hit the ball hard. Some fans may want to see Liddi in the lineup, but he’s simply not ready for everyday Major League ABs. He may never be. Seager could be an average-ish 3B, and if he hits well during Mike Carp’s absence, it’s possible that he holds on to his spot when Carp returns. That would likely, mercifully, mean that the Chone Figgins-as-a-leadoff-hitter experiment can end sooner than expected.
More important than any of this, though, is that baseball season is back! Again. Weird. But it’s going to stick around for more than two days this time! Let’s go Mariners!
When the Mariners announced their rotation yesterday, four of the names made sense. Felix and Vargas were locks. Hector Noesi was acquired to be a starter, and performed well in spring training. Kevin Millwood was meant to be an innings sponge that helps the Mariners delay starting Hultzen or Paxton’s clocks. So those four all make sense. The one that’s baffling to me is Blake Beavan.
It’s easy to see why Wedge would like Beavan. He’s young, has good poise, and rarely walks batters–he had a ridiculous 1.39 BB/9 last year. It’s everything else that Beavan is lacking in. He doesn’t miss bats–his 3.90 strikeout rate was third worst among starters with over 90 IP last season. His 38.1% groundball rate was below average as well. Beavan’s upside is likely an ok #4 or a good #5 starter.
While that’s serviceable, this is a season where the Mariners likely aren’t going to contend. The Mariners could learn more about what they have by giving that spot to Hisashi Iwakuma or Erasmo Ramirez, who both may have #3-4 starter quality upside. It’s clear that Beavan’s upside is limited. We don’t know if Ramirez or Iwakuma can be better than #5 starters, but at least the possibility is there. Giving Beavan the spot in the rotation isn’t a terrible decision, but both Iwakuma and Ramirez have greater potential. For that reason, I would have rather seen one of them given that spot in the rotation.