Tag Archives: Dustin Ackley

Mariners Begin Season, Let’s Review!

At the start of the baseball season I had this idea to write a recap of each series the Mariners played.  Then the season started and I got busy, tired, sleepy, or lazy.  So now here we are, 12 games into the season and I think it’s time to recap what happened so far.  If I do that then I could maybe do a series recap starting Thursday!  Probably not, but maybe.  I’ll keep you on your toes.

For now, I’m going to give you a very short series recap of the 4 series the Mariners have completed and then take a closer look at the lineup.  Let’s get started!

March 31-April 2:  Three game sweep of the Angels!

What a way to start the season.  I hate the Angels so it was nice to pummel them.  The offense battled against some pretty good starting pitching and then destroyed a pedestrian bullpen.  The pitching was very good all series.  The closest game of the series was an 8-3 victory.
Star of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak came up big all series long.  He hit a big dinger in the first game and rocketed a bases clearing double off of CJ Wilson in the second game.
Goat of the Series:  No one – I searched through the box scores.  There was no one to pick.  Every single position player got on base and no pitcher had some crazy meltdown.

Ted S. Warren

Ted S. Warren

April 3-April 6:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

The A’s seem to be pretty even with the Mariners, actually probably a little better.  This was a strange series.  Erasmo threw a clunker.  Elias was screwed over by the worst umpiring I’ve ever seen.  Felix threw a gem.  The Oakland grounds crew did something ridiculous and a game was postponed.  The series was annoying and really weird.  The offense was able to squeak out 8 runs over the 3 games.  The A’s pitching is really good and the offense hasn’t figured them out yet.
Star of the Series:  Felix Hernandez – I think Felix is the right choice here.  He threw a fantastic game and got the Mariners their only win of the series.
Goat of the Series:  Hector Noesi – Noesi threw 2 pitches and gave up a walk off homer.  It was as predictable as things could get.  He’s now gone.  Other goats considered were Sean Barber, Oakland grounds crew, and Coco Crisp (he really was terrible for the Mariners).

April 8-9:  1-1 in a 2 game series against the Angels.

The season opener was electric.  Paxton recovered from a rocky first inning and threw a great game before coming out with an injury.  Hart had his best game of the season to date, homering twice.  The next game was ugly, as the Mariners were shut out by Garret Richardson.  Roenis Elias threw well but not well enough to overcome the offense being shut out.  That’s pretty much impossible to overcome.
Star of the Series:  Corey Hart – He didn’t do much on Wednesday (although he did get on base) but his two dingers won the game on Tuesday.
Goat of the Series:  Dustin Ackley – Ackley didn’t record a hit in this series.  A small blemish in an otherwise very good year to date.

April 11-13:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

It sure is annoying playing the A’s all the time.  Each game against them feels like a struggle.  It really is.  They don’t make many mistakes and their pitching is so good that you just have to scratch out some runs.  Friday night was an extremely fun baseball game.  Saturday and Sunday the Mariners scored a total of 1 run.  Thankfully, the Mariners don’t play the A’s very many more times before September.
Star of the Series:  Dustin Ackley and Felix Hernandez – After the performance that Felix put up on Friday, I have to include him.  Ackley went 5 for 8 in the series with 2 doubles and quickly bounced back from his lackluster series against the Angels.
Goat of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak didn’t get a hit all weekend, even though he did hit some balls hard on Friday.

That left the Mariners with a 6-5 record after 11 games.  They won tonight (7-5) and I think anyone would have taken a 7-5 record to start the season.

Some thoughts on individual players after the jump.   Continue reading

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Mariners Minor League & Draft Notes

It’s summer in Seattle and the Mariners are in the middle of another depressing season.  I actually think they have the pieces to turn it around and finish near the .500 range, if their luck would ever turn.  I’m also starting to think this might be one of those years where nothing goes right.  Regardless, when the offense is this bad, they’re hard to watch.

So once again, I find myself paying more attention to the Mariners’ minor leaguers, the one place where the outlook for Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners is always hopeful.  Betweens call-ups, promotions and the draft, a lot has happened lately.

Franklin, Zunino to Seattle

This is old news now, but there’s a little data that’s worth discussing.  Franklin has been quite solid.  He’s at .277/.362/.494, which would be pretty phenomenal if he could maintain it.  His defense looks prettier than Dustin Ackley’s but isn’t as consistently reliable, at least to my eyes.  Zunino is showing some of the expected struggles with the bat, hitting below .200 with corresponding power and on-base numbers.  His power is consistently apparent, but he’s not quite squaring up the ball well enough to get it out.  I don’t see anything that makes me worried for his future, although I wonder how long they’d let him struggle before they’d send him down.  His defense is excellent, and I imagine it will keep him in Seattle for quite some time.  While it’s far too early to say definitively, both look like line-up regulars for years to come.

Ackley, Others to Return Soon?

Since going down to Tacoma, Dustin Ackley has been hitting around .400, with OBA and Slugging % around .500.  He’s done everything they could ask, including spending most of his time in the outfield.  That isn’t necessarily a permanent move, but it gives him an avenue back to Seattle for this season.  Rumors are he’s working on some mechanical fixes, including shortening his stride.  True or not, I’d expect to see him back around the all-star break, if not sooner. Continue reading

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Mariners to Get New Mariners Tomorrow, and Other Notes

I’m mostly going to talk about tomorrow’s MLB draft, but there are a few things I should mention first:

  • It seems pesky injuries are hitting the Mariners harder than usual this year.  The latest casualty is catcher Jesus Sucre, who was hit on the back of his hand by a backswing last night. Nothing’s broken, but he’ll be out at least a few days.  Sucre’s been okay, and better than that defensively, since taking Jesus Montero’s roster spot, but he’s no huge loss.  The only problem is the M’s had no other catchers on the 40-man roster, since Montero just suffered a knee injury and is out for a month or more.  They promoted Triple-A back-up Brandon Bantz, who will be around for a week at most and may not even see the field.  Again, no big deal, just a bit of a headache for the M’s to figure out.
  • To open a 40-man roster spot for Bantz, Franklin Gutierrez was placed on the 60-day disabled list. That’s retroactive to when he first went on the DL, but it still feels tantamount to the Mariners giving up on Guti.  I’m sure we’ll see him the second half of the season, and he might even get our hopes up again, but I see no way he’s around next year, even at a near-minimum salary.  Having Guti on the roster means compensating in too many other ways, and it’s just not worth it.  You have to be able to count on players to stay on the field for longer than a week.  It’s a shame, because he still has mountains of talent, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
  • On a brighter note, Nick Franklin has been a revelation as Dustin Ackley’s replacement at second base.  He actually looks a lot like Ackley did when he first came up, with a great eye and a swing that delivers a lot of contact and surprising power.  He looks better at second, which is nothing against Ackley, who was extremely solid there.  In only a week, Franklin has done enough to generate talk about whether Ackley will ever get a chance to reclaim his spot.  Those talks are fair, but also remember that Ackley was quite good for a half a season before falling apart last year.  You just never know.
  • The Mariners have struggled before this Chicago series, but I’m actually feeling a little optimistic.  The worst part of the schedule is over, and the offense has crept up to league average and is still improving.  More importantly, there’s hope on the horizon for the biggest weakness: the back of the rotation.  I’m okay with Joe Saunders, and Aaron Harang I can live with for the moment.  That fifth spot is a killer, though.  Luckily, Erasmo Ramirez could return within a couple of weeks, and if he has his form back he could immediately become the staff’s third best starter.  Danny Hultzen has started throwing again, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up around the all star break.  Keep your fingers crossed, but the options are slowly improving.

MLB Draft

The MLB draft starts tomorrow, which most baseball fans are probably not even aware of.  I personally love the draft, but it understandably gets less attention than it’s basketball and football counterparts.  Most of the players are unknown, and they generally won’t make the majors for 3-4 years, if at all.  I like following it because I can completely release my judgement of the picks and just trust in the Mariners.  Trust in the Mariners?  Am I crazy, you ask?  The Mariners are actually quite good at drafting.  Since Zduriencik and Tom McNamara, the amateur scouting director, took over, the Mariners’ farm system has gone from maybe the worst in baseball to top two or three, almost solely on the strength of their drafts.  We can debate another day on why some of those draftees are failing in the majors, but getting players into the system hasn’t been the problem.

After choosing Mike Zunino third overall last year, the Mariners are picking 12th tomorrow, which is good and bad for all the usual reasons.  It’s hard to know who they’ll take that far down the draft, and the Mariners are one of the more unpredictable teams anyway.  I’ll list a few potential names below.  Just remember that no matter who they pick, don’t get worked up.  They know much more about these guys than any of us do.  You can treat the Mariners drafting like we treat the Seahawks drafting: it can be surprising and you might wish they had done something different, but they’ve earned a pretty high level of trust at this point.  That said, here are a few names:

DJ Peterson is one of the best bats in the draft, and maybe the most advanced.  A college third baseman at New Mexico, he’ll likely move to first or DH but should have plenty of bat to still be a threat there.  The comparison I’ve seen most is to Kansas City’s Billy Butler.  Peterson is probably my top choice of guys who could realistically be available, but I’m not sure he’ll make it to them.

Hunter Renfroe is a college outfielder who is getting a lot of buzz lately.  He’s athletic enough to be solid in a corner and has plenty of power.  Someone mentioned Jay Buhner as a comparison.  The Mariners are low on outfield prospects and Renfroe is probably the best one they might have a shot at.

Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier are both outfielders from Georgia and the two best high school position prospects in the draft.  Both will likely go before the Mariners pick, but there’s a chance one could slip.  I’d be thrilled with either.

JP Crawford, a high school shortstop, is the only shortstop considered a first rounder.  I gather he’s not elite with the glove but could be above-average.  The bat is solid.  He’s expected to go right around the Mariners’ pick.  Not sure how I feel about Crawford, but it’s always good to have shortstops around.

Reese McGuire is a high schooler, and he also happens to go to school minutes away from where I’m writing this, at Kentwood High.  He’s a catcher who projects to be solid with the bat and quite good with the glove.  He was going to the Mariners in a lot of earlier mock drafts, but I think most now believe he’ll be gone by then.  I’d be fine with that.  He sounds like a good prospect and it’s fun to add local kids, but I’m not crazy about high school catchers, especially with Zunino and others in the system already.

That’s probably enough names for now.  I didn’t mention any pitchers, because I didn’t feel like it.  A pitcher pick wouldn’t surprise though. Watch especially for high schooler Phil Bickford and his big fastball, or Ryan Stanek, whom the Mariners previously picked but couldn’t sign away from college.

I’ll try to post something tomorrow night after the M’s pick.  For better coverage, try Baseball America or Minor League Ball from a national perspective, and Seattle Sports Insider and Jay Yencich at USS Mariner for a local breakdown.

Go Mariners! Believe Big!

-Matthew

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Dustin, He’s So Hot Right Now

The 2013 Mariners are annoyingly familiar.  They’re losing, for one, 12-17 at the moment.  The offense is giving itself chances to score runs, but it spits on those chances before grounding them weakly to shortstop.  Felix and Iwakuma are among the top five or so starters in the league right now, but the other three rotation spots have been inconsistent at best and horrible at worst.  The bullpen has bright spots, but it’s dealing with some injuries and the replacements have been spotty.  Injuries have also decimated the outfield. Michael Saunders just returned to the field after being one of the team’s best hitters early, and Michael Morse has apparently recovered from or at least learned to compensate for his broken finger, but Franklin Gutierrez is doing exactly what’s expected of him, with weird leg injuries halting then stopping his season.

Much of the lamenting has centered around the continued failure of the team’s supposed future, namely Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero.  I’m not going to argue for Smoak and Montero, at least not right now, but Ackley’s demise might be greatly misstated.  Or at least, his resurgence has been somewhat unnoticed.

Right now, Ackley is sitting on a .253/.284/.286 line. That’s not good, although the batting average is about 30 points higher than last year. His OPS+, which merely compares his OPS (.570) to league average, is 65.  League average is 100, so he’s been 35% worse than average.  

Now, time for fun with numbers and random cutoff points!  Ackley started this season as cold as Antarctica.  After seven games, he had two hits and two walks.  If we take out those seven games, he’s batting .310.  The OPS is still only .681, which isn’t good, but I’ll talk more about that below. If we look at roughly the last two weeks, starting April 17th, the line jumps to .383/.396/.447.  Those numbers over a full season would be phenomenal and beyond any hopes we could have.

Picking starting and ending points like I just did is risky analysis, so I make no guarantees on anything here.  It’s certainly possible Ackley is just on a hot streak and he will soon plummet Smoak-style.  It’s also possible the first week or two was a terrible cold streak and the .310 BA is more realistic.  Arbitrary date selection isn’t great, but it doesn’t automatically make a more hopeful interpretation illegitimate.

More interesting is the disparity in the stats.  The batting average is great, but his on-base and slugging percentages still lag.  Once the benchmark of offensive stats, batting average has fallen out of favor of late.  OBP and slugging are more comprehensive, and more advanced stats go even further.  Right now, everything Ackley is doing is batting average driven, and within that, it’s all singles-driven.  He has three walks and three doubles, and 23 singles.

The scouting report on Ackley has always been he’s an elite contact hitter with a great eye and solid gap power.  After fixing some mechanical issues dating back to last season, the contact skills seem to be on the rebound.  He’s hitting the ball hard to all fields again and rolling over on pitches less.  His plate discipline is hard to wade through.  His swing rates are roughly the same as ever, although he’s swinging at pitches outside of the zone a bit more.  That might be a good thing, as part of Ackley’s problem has been a stubborness in not swinging at borderline pitches.  It hasn’t worked out well, so a slightly more aggressive approach might help.  He’s making a little better contact in all facets this year, so something’s working.

The biggest concern with Ackley is the lack of both walks and power.  I would bet the two are related.  There’s no reason for pitchers to go outside the zone when they still have last year’s scouting report and he’s only hitting singles thus far.  Add in that Ackley makes contact with almost everything, and pitchers are going to have to work hard to walk him.  That’ll change if he keeps hitting like this, but the process would be helped greatly (as would his production) if more of his singles start going for extra bases.  Pitchers are going to challenge him until he does some damage.

Dustin Ackley is on a singles streak, which is great and gives hope for the future.  But he won’t continue to hit nearly .400, and he will need to do more than hit singles to really make an impact.  Walks and at least gap power need to be a part of the package.  I’m betting both will come soon. Ackley’s slowly putting his game back together. A barrage of doubles might signal the next and most important piece.

-Matthew

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2013 AL West Team

Unlike some college sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. Clearly this is not a perfect method to predicting the AL West in 2013, and by season’s end the 1st and 2nd team selections will look different. But, it does provide a snapshot of how the division stacks up. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and projected impact/playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

2013 AL West

A couple bullets:

  • It is hard to find much separation at the top between Oakland, Texas, and LAA. All 3 have playoff potential, but from this breakdown I would also suggest the Mariners are closer to the good teams in the division, rather than the bad (Houston).
  • Say what you want about Oakland’s 2012 season being an anomolye, but it’s hard to criticize the roster Billy Beane has been assembled this year. The A’s don’t have a lot of star power but they are solid at every position, and have a ton of depth, which will surely be an asset at some point.
  • The positions that were hardest to find a clear cut 1st and 2nd team selection were Catcher, DH, and the 2nd team OFs and Starting Ps. At catcher, Montero projects to have the most playing time and potential, so I gave him the honors. You could make a case for Jaso and Pierzynski too. The same is true between Kendrys Morales, Berkman, and Trumbo, but the numbers suggest Morales (when healthy) is the best option in the group. David Murphy is a nice player, as is Coco Crisp, Franklin Gutierrez, and Chris Young. Take your pick, I went with Murhpy. Starting pitching was a bit of a toss up to when you start picking the 8th-10th best in the AL West. I tried hard to justify an Astro but simply could not. Iwakuma was my 10th selection, but it could have easily gone to Derek Holland, Jason Vargas, or really any Oakland starter.
  • In order to visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks, I’ve awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a fancy bar graph.

    graph

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The Rebuilding Process, Year 5

One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.

This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2 Year 3 Year 4

Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.

    THE BLUEPRINT

2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm
Summary: Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager.
Grade: A+

2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix)
Summary: Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5.
Grade: B-

2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent
Summary: Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick.
Grade: B

2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record
Summary: Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall.
Grade: A

2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs
Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales.
Grade: ???

I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated

“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”

Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.

If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?

Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.

Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.

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The Mariners of the Future: Second Base

We seem to be alternating between barren and loaded positions with this series.  That should continue until the outfield.  Next up is the loaded second base.

The Rundown

Dustin Ackley is still a pivotal piece in the Mariners’ rebuilding effort.  He’s not performing well this year, but that’s not uncommon for someone in his position.  He has some clear mechanical issues at the moment and seems to be struggling to make adjustments.  I’d expect these to be ironed out at some point soon.  It’s still unclear where Ackley will end up offensively.  His recent struggles have tempered the Chase Utley comparisons, but that level isn’t impossible.  He should still be at least an above-average, allstar level bat most years.  He needs to be that, for everyone’s sake.  What isn’t a huge issue is his defense.  After meeting a lot of skepticism while learning the position, he’s become a solid if unspectacular defender.  To my eyes, he’s improving and has the skills to be at least slightly above-average. Continue reading

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