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Winning the WAR Episode VII: Action Jackson! (Moderate amounts of action only)

April 27, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This
Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not guaranteed)
Episode III: Robby Rediscovers the Seats
Episode IV: The Default Knight Rises
Episode V: Kyle Seager is Still Here
Episode VI: So is Dustin Ackley Good, or what?

The last time this series was updated, it was a long time ago. So, without any warning or reasoning, the series resumes tonight! With perhaps the most frustrating 2014 Mariner of all, Austin Jackson. So what’s in store for the man that some might have called Action Jackson at some point? It’s hard to say. For a guy going into his age-28 season with three seasons of 3+ WAR, it should be simple enough–he’s going to be good, it’s just a matter of how good. Then he had a 55 wRC+ after being traded to the Mariners last year, and looked like possibly the worst player in baseball. Read more…

It’s time for the Mariners make their first major roster move

April 27, 2015

So the Mariners’ season has been kind of frustrating thus far. They sit at 7-11, or exactly the same record they had after 18 games a year ago. They’ve gotten there in a different way–they can hit a little this year, they haven’t pitched as well as they should, and the outfield defense might sometimes be described as hilarious–but regardless, they are in same place, at the same very early part of the season. It’s still too early to overreact to things like the pitching staff having an ERA so big it would emasculate Andre the Giant, or the struggles of this one guy with a .164 BABIP. But there is one move that the Mariners could make right now that would instantly make the Mariners better: DFA Willie Bloomquist, and call up Chris Taylor to take his place.

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Winning the WAR Episode VI: So is Ackley Good, or What?

March 27, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This
Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not guaranteed)
Episode III: Robby Rediscovers the Seats
Episode IV: The Default Knight Rises
Episode V: Kyle Seager is Still Here

Dustin Ackley is another one of those guys that seem to be all over this roster: the guy with obvious talent who has yet to live up to it, though he’s frustrated us all with extended flashes of brilliance. When he was drafted #2 overall, he was supposed to be a line-drive hitting machine, spraying the ball all over the field while popping an occasional homer. He was supposed to walk a ton, and not strike out much at all. In his rookie season, he hit .273/.348/.417 with a 10.6% walk rate, and looked to be on that path. Since then, he’s hit .239/.300/.355 in 1,637 plate appearances.

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Winning the WAR Episode V: Kyle Seager is Still Here

March 22, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This
Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not guaranteed)
Episode III: Robby Rediscovers the Seats
Episode IV: The Default Knight Rises

So, Kyle Seager got $100 million this offseason, and he deserves every penny of it. But when you’ve been reading articles, or listening the radio, it seems like his name is an afterthought. People talk about Cano and Cruz as an excellent 3-4 in the middle of the lineup, finally giving the Mariners at least an average offense. Felix and Iwakuma are touted as perhaps the best 1-2 combination in the game. Those things are true, but not being more excited for a guy that could arguably be considered the best all-around third baseman in the game in 2014 seems a bit strange.

I don’t know what it is about Seager that lets him slip under the radar. There are plenty of Seager shirts and jerseys in the concourses at Safeco Field. In-season commentary doesn’t seem to forget about him. But something about the offseason seems to make fans and analysts alike forget just how good and entertaining to watch Kyle Seager is. He should be one of the players Mariners fans are most excited about in 2015.

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Winning the WAR Episode IV: The Default Knight Rises

March 21, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This
Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not Guaranteed)
Episode III: Robby Rediscovers the Seats

Shortstop was expected to be perhaps the hottest positional battle on the Mariners this year. Both Chris Taylor and Brad Miller look like they have the skills to be legitimate MLB-caliber starting shortstops, even if they get there in different ways–Miller, by flashing some power, and making an occasional spectacular play, and Taylor by gobbling up every single ball hit within a half mile of shortstop and hitting for enough empty average to not be a black hole at the plate. 2015 ZiPS projections have them as basically equals when it comes to WAR–2.2 for Brad Miller, and 2.3 for Chris Taylor.

Of course, Chris Taylor had to go and break his wrist, which was a silly decision to make. But, for the fortunes of the 2015 Mariners, this could be a blessing in disguise. Now don’t get me wrong–Chris Taylor is good, and the Mariners will probably need him to contribute this year. But it’s pretty clear, at least to me, that Brad Miller’s ceiling is far greater than Chris Taylor’s, and in a season where a team is chasing the playoffs, if the downside is equal, then you take the upside play. Brad Miller may be the shortstop the Mariners deserve, even if he isn’t the shortstop the Mariners need. Or something like that.

Read more…

Winning the WAR Episode III: Robby Rediscovers the Seats

March 20, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This
Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not Guaranteed)

It’s pretty hard to argue that Robinson Cano’s first season as a Mariner was anything but a success. He put up an outstanding .314/.382/.454 line with 53 extra base hits, and had a 136 wRC+. Cano posted 5.2 WAR–which is actually his worst season since 2009–playing every bit like the superstar the Mariners thought they were signing. Well, except for that thing where he was supposed to hit a lot of dingers. He hit a good amount of dingers, a smattering of dingers, perhaps even a collection of dingers, but certainly not a lot of dingers.

That no good lousy liar! We need to do something about this! Grab your pitchforks, grab your–what’s that you say? His wRC+ of 136 was nearly as good as his 27-homer campaign in 2013 (142)? And it was actually better than 28-homer 2011 (134)? So…Robinson Cano’s 2014, even with just 14 homers, was basically as good as any other Cano season? Well that’s reassuring. Still…can we at least have some of the dingers back?

That's an awesome swing and all, but can you be more than just an MVP candidate for us?

That’s an awesome swing and all, but can you be more than just an MVP candidate for us?

The answer to this question, like with many others, is “I’m not sure,” but there are some interesting arguments to be had on either side. Cano’s average true distance on his home runs was over 400 feet in 2013, and fell to just 378.1 in 2014. His ground ball percentage was up to 52.6%, which is significantly higher than his 48.4% career number in that category. It’s possible to argue that Cano is simply losing his power.

I think there’s more to it than that, though. Even though I’ve never been a big believer in lineup protection, Cano mentioned numerous times in 2014 that he was being pitched differently than ever before, rarely getting a pitch on the inner half that he could drive out of the ballpark. Instead, he took what was given to him, which theoretically means more singles to left field on outside pitches than dingers into the right field seats.

It’s possible that Cano will see better pitches to hit when teams are at least somewhat worried about the guys behind him in the lineup being able to drive him in. I don’t know if I buy it, but it’s a theory. Just for funsies, lets take a look at the pitches he didn’t swing at in 2013 vs. 2014.

CanoCalled2013CanoCalled2014

It does seem like pitchers weren’t coming in on Cano quite as much in 2014, even though it’s clear they were still attacking him low and away in 2013 as well. Still, there seems to be something to Cano’s claim that he wasn’t getting as many inside pitches to drive. Whether or not having Nelson Cruz behind him leads to him getting some of those inside pitches back remains to be seen, but it’s nice to have a possible explanation for Cano’s lack of homers besides possible decline.

If the Mariners are going to win the WAR, they’re going to need Cano to play at a superstar level, and I’m confident he’ll be able to do that. Even without a high home run total, Cano is still probably the best second baseman in baseball, or at least close to it. I believe it’s possible that Cano rediscovers his power stroke. Remember, though, he is turning 32, and has only hit more than 30 bombs in a season once in his career. Low-to-mid 20s should be considered a successful power year for Cano.

And even if he doesn’t get there, he’ll still probably be the best second baseman in the game, so whatever, man. If you’re going to bitch about Cano’s homer totals when he’s still excellent at everything else, I’ll just go ahead and let you enjoy your miserable life in Complainy-land, you Negative Nancy/Norman.

What Robinson Cano’s stats will be in 2015, exactly:

.309 AVG/.379 OBP/.489 SLG, 23 HR, 692 plate appearances, -2.4 UZR, 6.1 WAR

If Robby gets his groove back: 48 + 2.7 + 2.4 + 6.1 = 59.2 wins

To be continued tomorrow, where we learn how a case of winning by default may be the best thing for the 2015 Mariners.

Winning the WAR Episode II: Mo LoMo*, Mo Money (*Mo LoMo is not guaranteed)

March 19, 2015

Previous Installments:

Episode I: MZ Hammer Can Touch This

Logan Morrison is a confusing player. He hit well at every stop in the minor leagues, powered by a skill set that features outstanding patience and above-average power. In 2010, Baseball America ranked him as the 16th best prospect in baseball. Morrison debuted that year, and immediately showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect, hitting .283/.390/.447 in 287 plate appearances, good for 1.0 WAR. Oh, and he was just 22 years old. It seemed like Morrison was on his way to becoming a star.

Read more…

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