It all started when Ichiro hit a ball the other way between the infielders and the left fielder for the millionth time in his career (according to Baseball Reference, it is his 563rd hit the other way since coming to America). Casper Wells then drew a walk as Josh Beckett appeared to lose it for a minute. Kyle Seager then hit a ball that landed right in between the left fielder and the shortstop. Off the bat, I was ready to tweet that it was a horrible at-bat by Seager. Yet it landed in. It was dumb luck that Seager got a single and loaded the bases. In baseball, there is a ton of luck. It is a game built a good deal on luck and circumstance. A ball that would be a homer in Yankee Stadium maybe an out at Safeco. A ground-ball between the shortstop and 2nd baseman is considered a hit, while a ground-ball to the 2nd baseman is considered an out, despite a minimal difference in the two events. With that said, you still need skill. After the Seager “hit”, John Jaso came up to the plate. John Jaso has basically one skill: he can hit. He can’t really play defense, in fact, Jonah Keri told me that Jaso is the worst defensive catcher he has ever seen. Of course, Mariner fans would point out that Miguel Olivo is also a terrible defensive catcher other than his arm. However, John Jaso has a 136 OPS +. To give you an idea of how good that is, it is tied with Ben Zobrist, just under Billy Butler, and better than Adam Dunn, Yeonis Cespedes, and Will Middlebrooks. All this is done with a BABIP of .302, so it isn’t really fluky. So when the bases were loaded and Josh Beckett was polishing off “War and Peace” between pitches, I had a good feeling that Jaso would come through. I don’t believe in clutch hitting. There isn’t much evidence it exists. It is another part of baseball that is part luck, part skill, and part circumstance. This is how Chone Figgins’ gets a walk off sac fly. It isn’t because he is good or clutch, it is because of circumstance. If there were 2 outs when he flew out, Figgins would be a goat. Instead, he is a semi hero (at least as much as Chone Figgins can be a hero as a Mariner). So if Jaso hit a line drive just over the right fielder’s head to the wall with no runners on, we wouldn’t be talking about. However, since he did it with the bases loaded, a day after Aaron Cook shut out the Mariners with 81 pitches, the same day that Josh Beckett threw 4.2 hitless innings against the Mariners, the same season Philip Humber threw a perfect game against the Mariners, we remember it. Safeco Field for left-handed hitters has been the 3rd most pitcher friendly platoon split/park in baseball this year, behind right-handed hitters at Safeco and right-handed hitters in Cleveland. I have said it several times, but I will say it again: Josh Lueke for John Jaso was an incredibly lopsided trade in favor of the Mariners. John Jaso has a .9 WAR on the season. That may not sound like much, but for a guy who can’t really run the bases well, doesn’t play defense very often (and is bad when he does), it is really good. It is really good when you consider that Larry Larue reported earlier this year that the Mariners view Jaso as a “pinch hitter”. It is also really good when you consider that the Mariners traded 2 high rated young pitchers for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. Montero was supposed to be a lot like what Jaso is, slow, a bad catcher, but a good hitter.
Jesus Montero has a 0 WAR according to Fangraphs, meaning that he has been about as good as you would expect a (non-prospect) player brought up from AAA to be. According to BR’s “Neutralized Batting” (which tries to convert the hitter’s statistics into what they would look like in a normal hitting environment, which Safeco certainly is not) Jesus Montero is hitting .269/.307/.417 this year. In the off-season, I projected him as a .305 OBP and .456 SLG hitter. At this point, the projection was a little optimistic. What does this mean for Montero’s future? Probably not much. He is still young and could easily turn things around. He is still under team control for several years and costs nothing for the next couple of seasons. Is John Jaso going to be the guy the Mariners try to build a team around? No. First of all, the idea of building around a star is pretty nonexistent/not all that intelligent. Secondly, the guy is Montero if the idea even exists. However, Jaso is under team control for a few more years, and the Mariners could do worst than keeping him around and using him as often as possible.