After looking as lost as Paul Wulff does on the football field for much of the season, Matt Tuiasosopo has put in the best 2 day stretch the Mariners have seen from a single player all season. He has 7 RBI’s in the last 2 games and 3 extra base hits (one double and two home runs). He made a game-saving diving catch in left field yesterday (more on that later) and is the main reason the Mariners have their current 2 game winning streak. Of course, this leads to the question of him getting more playing time. The M’s blogosphere has seen a good discussion about this topic in the last couple days and I’m not going to pretend like I know more than them, because I don’t. Geoff Baker thinks he should see more playing time. Jeff Sullivan is more on the fence but doesn’t disagree that he should. I think both of them are on the right track.
Throughout the course of the season, Tui has suffered some criticism from the Mariner faithful. Some of that was just criticism. Any unbiased Mariner follower will tell you that Matt is pretty bad in the field. It was a joke when he spent the early part of the season as the Mariners’ backup shortstop. Shortstop is a tough position to play and he should never have been put in that situation because of his lack of range. That’s not the only spot where he’s a bad fielder though, it’s everywhere else. He shouldn’t be allowed to play 2nd base either. That leaves the corner outfield spots, 3rd base and 1st base (he is the emergency catcher and is definitely not a center fielder).
His top position may be the corner outfield. He has an athletic family but his foot speed is not up to par which limits him in the outfield. Still, if Manny can play left field Tui can too. Unfortunately for him, the Mariners are pretty set at those spots. Ichiro is our right fielder, no questions asked. The M’s have Michael Saunders in left field and I think everyone would say he is a better option than Tui. Saunders needs this last month and a half in left to see if he can play there next year. Most scouts would agree that Saunders has a much higher upside than Tui does. His defense is far superior and his bat is even, if not better, than Tui. Saunders should be in the lineup at least 5 times a week for the remainder of the season (assuming he’s healthy).
So what about 3rd base? Well, Jose Lopez is there. Of course, Jose Lopez isn’t that great. There is one big reason why Lopez should be playing over Tui, his trade value. Lopey’s trade value is as low as it can get right now, but what if he hits a little hot streak? Maybe Jack Z could get something back for him in the off-season if he puts up a good last month. I’m as sick of watching Loafie as the next guy but it’s easy to understand why he’s playing. Also, he may be better than Matt (we don’t really know). I’d rather see Tui play over Lopez than Saunders but I don’t think that will be done or necessarily should be done. A spot start there for Tui is a good idea, I think.
That leaves 1st base. Which also leads to the question, “Why is Casey Kotchman still here?” I thought they’d cut him about a month ago but they haven’t. I don’t hate Kotchman and I understand that he’s filling in until Justin Smoak comes back up but I get tired of watching this guy try to hit. And he’s so dang slow. This is the spot where I think Tui should see the majority of his time if he plays. Kotch can’t hit lefties; Tui is right handed. Hey, that seems like a match! I’d be just fine with these two splitting time at first.
In the future, I agree with Sullivan in that Tui looks like he should be a 4th outfielder type. He hasn’t got a chance to prove himself and that’s what the rest of the season should be. Also, we have to keep in mind that it was just two games and it was against Baltimore. Sullivan pointed out that quality of opponent is often overlooked and undervalued in baseball (Jeff knows what he’s talking about).
Hopefully, we see a little more Tui in the next month. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for a baseball player. Don’t forget that he’s only 24 too. And what’s the worst that could happen with the M’s playing him? They could lose a couple more games? We’re used to that already.