Tag Archives: Casper Wells

Checking in on Jason Bay


With Casper Wells officially an Oakland Athletic, I thought it was a good time to look at how Jason Bay is doing at the plate so far this season. Obviously, sitting at April 23rd, three weeks into the regular season, statistics, whether traditional or “sabermetric” are not going to be at a point where it makes any sense to evaluate them. Instead, as I have done in previous posts, I will look at Pitch F/X data. Here, we will be able to see what pitches he is seeing, from what kind of pitchers, and what he is doing with these pitches/pitchers. Bay has seen 181 pitches so far in the regular season, so let’s look at what the data tells us about Bay’s 2013 season so far.

First, let’s look at the opposing pitcher’s release points, giving us an idea of what kinds of pitchers he is facing:

Jason Bay Release Points

As you can see, Bay has not been much of a platoon player, having the platoon advantage just 36% of the time. This is at least part out of necessity, since the outfield has been so thin and unhealthy to start the year. We do see that Wedge has protected him from right-handed specialist type pitchers reasonably well (or the Mariners have just not faced them), and giving him plenty of at-bats against left-handed specialists. This trend would help boost his numbers at least somewhat arbitrarily in a way that is not predictive in a vacuum.

What about the velocity of the pitches Bay has seen?

Bay velocity

The average pitch Jason Bay is seeing so far this year is 87.47 MPH, which is above the median for relief pitchers in 2013, and well above the median for starting pitchers for 2013. He has only seen 87 fastballs or fastball type pitches (counting moving fastballs/sinkers/cutters), which is a low number. So it is not that he is seeing a lot of fastballs, because he really isn’t. It is that he is seeing hard fastballs, averaging about 93.8 MPH, roughly 3 MPH harder than league average. As you see from the chart, he has seen a fastball that nearly touched 100 MPH, and to his credit, he at least fouled it off. It is really a strange dynamic we are seeing for Bay. He is coming off of a dreadful year, and yet pitchers won’t throw him fastballs, even though these pitchers seem to have very good fastballs on average.

So how is Bay handling this velocity? Without classifying pitches (for one, we are just looking at velocity now, and the MLBAM tags can be tricky or wrong, and since we are looking at an abundance of pitchers, classifying them in a way that is not overly simplistic or binary would be extremely difficult), I broke the pitches in half based on velocity.

On pitches that are above the average of 87.47 MPH, Bay has made contact (because the sample size is so small, we can’t differentiate between outs and non-outs for obvious BABIP reasons, and have to just assume contact is always good, which of course, it isn’t) 15 times and whiffed 7 times. On pitches below this average, Bay has made contact just 8 times, and whiffed 12 times. So it appears that pitchers are justified in throwing him softer pitchers and a lot of breaking balls.

What about location? Can we already create “hot” and “cold” zones? Here is where pitchers have been throwing the harder pitches against Bay:

Bay's Fast Pitch Locations

Pitchers will throw inside on him occasionally, but clearly so far in 2013, they are wanting to keep the ball away, even with hard stuff.

Here are the softer half of pitches thrown to Bay:

Bay's Slow Pitch

With the slower pitches, pitchers will throw some inside at the bottom of the plate (something they wouldn’t do with harder stuff), but again, they mainly want to throw away. Perhaps pitchers are questioning not only Bay’s plate discipline, but his plate coverage as well.

Here are the pitches Bay has made contact on:

Bay Contact Zone

Mixed bag here, a couple way off the plate, but everything else in the zone, no one spot he had the most contact in, but he isn’t making any contact on pitches low and in, something that pitchers are doing with the softer stuff.

Here are the pitches Bay has swung and missed at:

Bay's Whiff Zone

The problem here is clear. Other than the one stray inside ball, everything is middle to outside, with a lot of them low. These are of course, mainly breaking pitches.

So pitchers are going with soft stuff away from Bay, because frankly, he will swing and miss at it. When pitchers go hard and in on Bay, he can hit that. Bay has always been a pretty big strikeout hitter, but he doesn’t go out of the zone much, at least historically. That he is having so many problems with outside breaking balls is troublesome. On the other hand, his ability to get inside fastballs is encouraging from a bat speed perspective. It is definitely a small sample size, but Bay has seen 16 pitches over 95 MPH, and he has put 3 in play, and swung and missed at just 2. The quick wrists and strength that it takes to be a big league hitter appear to still be there, unless you believe that he is cheating on pitches, only hitting fastballs because he is sitting on them, and way ahead of breaking balls because he is just guessing fastball. This seems to be hard to prove without sample size, one way or another. He has had 46 0-0 counts so far, with just 2 swinging strikes. One was the second best fastball velocity he has seen, while the other was classified as a slider at 86.5 MPH. I count 22 of those 46 pitches classified as non-fastballs. If he were just guessing, one would think (at least this is what I would think) when pitchers started the count with off-speed and breaking stuff, he would look horrible, expecting to get a fastball. But, as we saw with the frequency of pitch types (fastballs versus non-fastballs), pitchers think/know he will chase, and so they throw an abnormal amount of off-speed/breaking pitches to start the count.

Do I expect Bay to be a positive contributor for the Mariners because of this data? The answer is still no. He doesn’t run or field well, so he really needs to hit to be a worthwhile player. The lack of discipline and ability on low and away breaking pitches at this point probably rule out him being a big contributor with the bat. It is noteworthy though, if one wanted to be positive, that the skill set of being able to hit good fastballs is not gone. The data suggests that he isn’t absolutely lost at the plate (which it seems he was in 2012 when he played), but the significant holes in all three facets of the game keep Bay from being someone the Mariners should be throwing out onto the field on any kind of regular basis (not that they have a lot of options right now).


Re-Ranking the Mariners 40 Man Roster

Cincinnati Reds v New York Mets

So it is December, and the Winter Meetings have now passed. While the Mariners were rumored to be going after every hitter imaginable, the only player they got in the Winter Meetings was Jason Bay. Mauricio Robles was designated to make room for Bay and is currently in limbo while the Mariners 40 man roster is full. I find it unlikely that he will be claimed by anyone, meaning he could come back and stay in the Mariners system. Either way, this means that they got rid of the bottom 4 players in my rankings from August. They also lost (they designated him for assignment, and then lost him to the Cubs by free agency) Johermyn Chavez who I ranked at 21st, and they evidently wanted to change him into a pitcher. They also traded Trayvon Robinson (#19) for Robert Andino (more on him later). Kevin Millwood (#33) is unsigned, while they re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma (#34), Oliver Perez (#25) and tendered a contract (technically came to an undisclosed agreement) to Josh Kinney (#36), which I wasn’t sure they would do. They also added some players to the 40 man, which I will rank and address below.

Remember, this ranking is by my interpretation of each player’s value, considering contract/age/future/role etc. This is not a ranking of how good the players are (though pure talent obviously plays a huge role). You will notice that a lot of players dropped since August, and a lot of this has to do with the minor leaguers added to the 40 man being obviously more valuable than the ones they replaced.

1. Felix Hernandez. Extension seems unlikely now, but the organization has been clear that they are not going to trade him.

2. Erasmo Ramirez: Erasmo is basically a lock to make the Mariners’ 2013 rotation, and has a lot of team control. He looks like a mid-rotation type starter, and that has a lot of value, as long as he can stay healthy.

3. Kyle Seager: Notice that, other than an occasional Youkilis rumor, the Mariners haven’t been linked to a 3rd baseman. They seem to believe he can play at a good everyday level again, and I think so too.

4.Danny Hultzen: I put him behind Erasmo and Seager (which he was ahead of last time) because the above two are more known commodities. Hultzen just has to find the strike zone again, but he has a pretty high ceiling and if all goes well, he will be in the rotation sometime in 2013.

5. John Jaso: This is a high ranking for a guy without any real defensive value and big platoon splits. However, he is still cheap, and he was their best hitter in 2012.

6. Dustin Ackley: Obviously 2012 was an offensive disappointment, but there is too much team control, potential, and good defense to rate Ackley much lower.

Mariners 40 man roster

7. Michael Saunders: He has more value in center, but he isn’t excellent there. Saunders is not quite a “tweener” (meaning he doesn’t have the bat for the corner, but not the defense for center), but he really needs to hit again like he did in 2012.

8. Charlie Furbush: I still like Furbush better than Wilhelmsen, but the elbow injury did scare me a bit. I think you could rate Wilhelmsen higher than  Furbush, but left-handedness makes me lean toward Furbush.

9. Tom Wilhelmsen: I don’t put much value on the closer role, but Wilhelmsen had a very good 2012 season. He is a very key part of the bullpen.

10. Jesus Montero: I was criticized for ranking him so low last time, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Montero before the trade, and 2012 really showed nothing to make me change my mind. He has good power and is cheap with a lot of team control, but he lacks plate discipline, is a terrible defensive catcher, and will have to spent most of his time at DH. The moved in fences should help him, but it isn’t going to fix his flaws.

11. Brandon Maurer: Obviously injury is a concern, but Maurer’s first really healthy season was a big one and got him added to the 40 man roster. Sometime in 2013 may be unrealistic, but he is a guy who should be in the rotation very soon.

12. Stephen Pryor: The fastball alone gives him value, but his slider looked pretty good in the Majors as well. If he stays healthy, he could be a bullpen piece (or maybe even a trade piece) for years to come

13. Hisashi Iwakuma: A guy who continued to prove himself as the season wore on. The contract is very workable from a Mariner perspective, and we will see how real his home run problem is with moved in fences.

14. Carter Capps: Still have Pryor ranked higher, but Capps has the harder fastball and showed improved breaking pitches as the season went along.

15. Anthony Fernandez: At the very least, he should be a left-handed bullpen piece over the next few years. Pitched well in AA, may even get some AAA time in 2013. Probably at least another year from the Majors, maybe longer if he still looks like a starter.

16. Carlos Triunfel: I have basically talked myself into slotting him as a utility player for 2013. Still a lot of control, doubtful to hit, but perhaps still has some value.

17. Brendan Ryan: Being a free agent at the end of the year hurts his value a lot. However, the defensive wizard is the Mariners 2013 starter, and the market isn’t exactly saturated with shortstops. Depending on what Nick Franklin and Brad Miller do in 2013, he may be expendable, or it may be a good idea to extend him.

18. Julio Morban: I am not entirely sure how to rank Morban, who was added to the 40 man roster. He hasn’t played in AA yet, has been inconsistent as a hitter, and has had injury problems. I would like to see more, but as of now, I am not a huge fan (but obviously things that salary/control/potential makes him automatically rated pretty high).

19. Jason Vargas: New park dimensions will make this interesting and he is a free agent at the end of the year. I still think he should have been moved at the trade deadline, but it is possible that most teams are as cool on Vargas as I am. Unless some trade is on the horizon, he will start in the rotation again, but he could be a guy who is booted out if he struggles and some of the prospects are given a shot in the rotation.

20. Mike Carp: I’m sticking to my guns of Carp over Smoak, but Carp’s ceiling is certainly lower going forward and you have the injury history. There have been some trade rumors surrounding him, and he becomes very expendable if Smoak hits at all and Montero finally moves to first (which, as of now, the organization doesn’t want to do).

21. Franklin Gutierrez: Probably a starter going into the year, but 2013 is his last guaranteed year of his contract, and he has been inconsistent with the bat and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He could be ranked even lower, but his defense makes him a starter.

22. Casper Wells: Cheap platoon player, with some decent base running/defensive skills. Unless the Mariners find some real outfield help, he is an important part of the 2013 Mariners.

23. Francisco Martinez: He is still too young for me to give up on him. You can see the tools and ability, he just has to hit and put it all together.

24. Blake Beavan: Obviously Beavan’s inability to miss bats is frustrating, and ideally, you don’t want him in the starting rotation. However, there is a good chance that he will start the year there and he is still cheap with a lot of team control.

25. Hector Noesi: Obviously if you thought that Noesi would be a starter for the Mariners, (I have advocated him being used in the bullpen from day 1) you are disappointed. However, his stuff is too good for him to not succeed out of the bullpen, and he still has a lot of team control.

26. Oliver Perez: Re-signed a 1 year 3 million dollar deal in the off-season, which I liked. Even if he repeats his 2012 success, the value is somewhat limited, with other good left-handed relievers owned by the Mariners and the fact that he will be a free agent again at the end of the season.

27. Shawn Kelley: Certainly a capable piece in the bullpen, coming off a good season. Health is important and the Mariners have a lot of good relievers. Trades may be in order to get some value from what seems like a surplus.

28. Justin Smoak: Honestly, who knows where to rank this guy? He got really hot at the end of the year, but having him as the starting 1st baseman going in to start the season would be a disappointment. Mark Reynolds signing with the Indians hurts, but there is still a couple of options out there.

29. Lucas Luetge: Another good lefty bullpen piece, Luetge was a good Rule 5 pickup. Now, the Mariners could actually send him to Tacoma if they wanted to, and that may be where he ends up, at least to start the year.

30. Josh Kinney: Ideally a low leverage type guy, Eric Wedge definitely loved him. His delivery and constant sliders makes him somewhat hard to watch, and he isn’t going to provide a ton of value, but he was tendered a contract and I agree with the decision.

31. Chance Ruffin: He pitched better as the season went along, and would have to flop massively not to pitch in the Majors in 2013 (even though there isn’t a lot of room for him).

32. Vinnie Catricala: New to the 40 man, no defensive value, moving from third would be basically the death kneel to his value, but staying there and playing really bad defensively won’t help either. He really has to hit in Tacoma this year.

33. Bobby Lafromboise: You can never have enough pitching, but Lafromboise is the 4th reliever on the list and the 3rd of which is basically a LOOGY. There is some value there, but I am not real sure that they needed to add him to the 40 man. Similar pitcher Brian Moran was not taken in the Rule 5.

34. Robert Andino: Andino has less team control than Trayvon Robinson did, and we now know Andino can’t really hit, while there is still some potential for Robinson. I am still not sold on Andino’s defense, and he is out of options.

35. Eric Thames: I think he most likely starts the year in Tacoma, especially if they add another outfielder along with Bay. The extra option does give him some flexibility, but I just think that his lack of speed/defense/plate discipline will prevent him from becoming a very useful big league player. The ceiling is platoon slugger.

36. D.J. Mitchell: The player on the 40 man from the Ichiro trade, Mitchell’s stuff is sub par, but he may develop into a swingman thanks to pitchability, and he has options and team control.

37. Yeorvis Medina: Medina is just caught in a place where there are too many relievers on the roster. He really needs to be impressive in Tacoma this year. He has a good fastball, he just needs to gain some polish and command.

38. Alex Liddi: He takes a huge drop since I have come to the conclusion that he is not a big league player. He has no real position and has yet to really impress with the bat. I can’t see any way that he makes the 25 man roster out of spring training.

39. Jason Bay: As I wrote in my article on him, I am just not sold that he will help much. Not a good defender or baserunner, you are expecting a guy in his mid 30s to hit like he did when he was 29 to really have any value.

40. Carlos Peguero: He isn’t worth a 40 man roster spot, I would have designated him for assignment already. You can find AAA sluggers that won’t hit in the big leagues without using a 40 man spot. Assuming they sign someone else to a big league deal, Peguero should be the guy that goes.

Mariners Sign Jason Bay

jason bay

According to just about everyone, and it has been rumored since he was released by the Mets, Jason Bay has signed with the Mariners. He still has to pass a physical, which isn’t necessarily a slam dunk (to mix sports metaphors). In many ways, Jason Bay was the Mets’ Chone Figgins. Perhaps even more appropriate, Bay was the hitter version of Oliver Perez for the Mets. Bay signed a 4 year 66 million dollar deal with the Mets, only to be released and paid out 18.2 million dollars to go away (so obviously a bigger contract than Figgins, but the Mets also have had a bigger payroll).

In 288 games with the Mets, he had a 90 OPS +, negative fielding values, and just 26 steals and 26 homers in that time. In the 3 years before that, Bay played in 451 games (with the Pirates and Red Sox) and had 88 homers and 27 steals, and a 121 OPS +. Since he has played basically only left-field in his career (and is below average at that), how he hits is extremely important. If he hits like he did with the Mets, then he really provides little to no value. Perhaps he could be a bench bat, but he doesn’t have drastic platoon splits in his career, and was terrible against both lefties and righties in 2012. 2011 was a small sample size (especially when you break it down into platoon splits), but Bay was really good against lefties that year, showing power and a high walk rate. The problem is that right-handed hitting outfielders are not exactly what the Mariners need, at least not platoon wise. I have written about this all off-season but Casper Wells fits that profile just fine, and he has better baserunning ability and is better in the outfield. Unlike Chone Figgins, where we are still baffled at what exactly happened and why he regressed so much, it is quite clear that injuries were a big reason that Bay’s early 30s played out like many players late 30s or early 40s. According to Baseball Prospectus, here is his complete list of injuries since the off-season of 2006:

Even with accounting for the new fences, Safeco isn’t exactly the place where hitters go to resurrect their careers. The hope is always that he could always  put a healthy season together like Oliver Perez did. However, there are a couple of notable differences between Oliver Perez and Jason Bay. Perez switched roles. He went from a starter to a reliever. Failed starters turn into relievers with success all of the time. This doesn’t mention the overall differences between hitters and pitchers, or the fact that Oliver Perez was showing the premium velocity in a winter league. It is not as if Jason Bay is in a winter league bombing home runs and stealing bases. However, the hope could be that a change in role (that is, making Bay more of a platoon player/DH/bench player/pinch hitter/taking him out early for defense) could help Bay stay healthy and regain his bat.

If you break down the difference between ’07-’09 (the beginning of publicly available Pitch F/X data) to ’10-’12 (his years with the Mets), he has been more aggressive with them, swinging more, putting more in play, but swinging and missing more as well. When you look at his spray charts, they aren’t incredibly different:


To me, they don’t look that different other than the fact that there was just more power in 2007-2009 (something we pretty much already knew). He still showed power to all fields with the Mets, it was just a lot less overall. The other big difference to me was the balls hit to the left-field wall (that is, pulled for the right-handed hitter). They were basically absent when he was with the Mets. The drop in power was there, as his average batted ball went 275.569 feet from 2007-2009, and with the Mets it went 266.573 feet. However, that isn’t a bad number. That power plays just fine as long as it comes with good peripherals. Bay saw 3.98 pitches per plate appearance, but with the Mets it dropped pretty drastically to 3.84 pitches per plate appearance. His contact percentage dropped (but was still higher than it was in 2004 when he had an OPS just over .900), and his K/BB was actually better with the Mets than it has been for most of his career (outside of 2004, his first real full year and 2007, which was his worst year with the Pirates). He is certainly swinging more often, especially on high pitches:

While Bay has always had a high strikeout rate, it is quite obvious that the contact problems have risen even more:

Obviously the Mariners have been rumored and linked to every hitter in the business (and I decided to not chase every rumor, only writing up some), so they aren’t done. Jason Bay wasn’t signed to be the savior of the offense, just like Hong-Chih Kuo (also coming off one of the worst year in memory) wasn’t brought in to the the savior of the bullpen. We still do not have the official word as to far as roster spot or salary, but I would have liked this signing if it was a no risk signing like Carlos Guillen last year, with no guaranteed roster spot or money. There is a good chance, like Kuo, Bay is downright dreadful in Spring Training and released. The declining power, peripherals, and his struggle to stay healthy (not to mention that he is already 34) certainly make Bay’s chances of having a good season with the Mariners unlikely. This would make the Mariners’ 40 man full, meaning they won’t take a player in the Rule 5 draft (something they usually like to do) on Thursday. That is fine for the most part (although Chris McGuinness would have been sort of interesting as a first baseman), but it would really be unfortunate if the Mariners have to move someone off the roster (or it prevents them from adding another non-major piece to the roster) for Bay, whose likelihood of producing an upside is low (I will rank the 40 man roster again after the Winter Meetings).

3 Cheap Outfielders for the Mariners to Consider


We have already looked at some cheap bullpen options for the Mariners to purse this off-season, and it is time to look at 3 cheap outfield options that the Mariners may be wise to pursue. The Mariners’ 2012 outfield had a 98 wRC + against left-handed pitching and 84 wRC + against right-handed pitching. The average MLB outfield had a 105 wRC +, so the Mariners have to improve on both sides of the plate. However, since the problem against righties is worse, I will highlight two left-handed hitters and one right-hander. The problem with this approach is that there simply aren’t many left-handed hitting options in the outfield free agent market.

We will start with the right-hander: Scott Hairston.

When you look at Scott Hairston’s career statistics, they aren’t overwhelming. He has been about a league average hitter for his career, with a 100 OPS + and 99 wRC +. Defensively, he has been slightly above average according to both major defensive metrics in his career, but has been below average the last 2 to 3 years. At age 32, it is perfectly legitimate to believe that he has regressed somewhat defensively. As far as speed and baserunning goes, I got him at 4.15-4.25 to first, so an above average to averagish runner from the right side.

Hairston doesn’t walk much, but had .265 ISO and 135 wRC + against righties (with a reasonable .297 BABIP) this year with the New York Mets. He is not a patient guy, and isn’t going to a high OBP player. His talent with the bat is his power. Even against right-handed pitchers, his ISO was .218 (while ISO isn’t park adjusted, the Mariners OF ISO was just .135. Hairston would clearly help in this regard). His average batted ball distance of 264.717 feet since 2007 is not astounding and it has been even worse in the last couple of years. His average distance drops rather significantly when it comes to curveballs and sliders as well. The Pitch F/X profiles show that Hairston whiffs much more on off-speed pitches than fastballs (most every one does, but these are compared to averages, meaning Hairston whiffs a disproportionate amount of times on off-speed pitches).

The extra whiffs on fastballs down the middle suggest that his bat may be a tad slow or that he has a long swing. Despite this, he has not been a big strikeout hitter and has really good power:

Hairston is basically what Raul Ibanez has morphed into, other than being right-handed, younger, and more athletic (so perhaps not like Raul Ibanez at all, other than having big platoon splits and being a dead fastball hitter). I don’t put much stock in Baseball Reference’s similarity scores, but one comparison is Casper Wells. I find this interesting because Wells may make a guy like Hairston redundant. The team could always trade Wells or Trayvon Robinson to make room, but they could also go with an opening day outfield of Hairston, Robinson, Wells, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders. If added to the 40 man roster today, I would probably rank him as the Mariners 16th best player, right after Carter Capps and before Blake Beavan (I will do another 40 man roster ranking in December).

Fred Lewis:

I will be honest, one of the reasons I picked these two hitters is that both have shown that they are willing to play in AAA (unlike, say, Rick Ankiel. This isn’t an indictment of players who won’t or a judge of their character, so don’t interpret it that way. I am willing to bet that I would rather sit at home than play in AAA if I had already played 10 years or so in the Majors. I am just looking at the crop of left handed hitting outfielders, and there isn’t much there, so teams will have to bring in minor league free agents).

Lewis got a taste in the big leagues in 2012 with the Mets, struggling in 18 games. He is 31 and has never had a (b)WAR of more than 1.7 (meaning essentially that he has never been an average big league regular). He has never been considered a good defender by defensive metrics, but speed score, baserunning value, and Baseball Cube’s speed rating all have Lewis as a well above average runner.

He has been a solid offensive platoon option in his career, walking 10 percent of the time (and striking out about twice as much) with a 107 wRC + (he has a high BABIP, but in 1437 PAs, it is hard to call that fluky). He was also a good hitter in AAA in 2012, with a 118 wOBA + and 139 OPS +. He played in 81 games in 2011 with the Cincinnati Reds and didn’t play particularly well, but took his walks and was above replacement level. Lewis doesn’t have great power, and you can see that it is basically all pull variety:

At this point, it is really hard to say how Safeco will play thanks to the fences being moved in, but it usually (or at least used to) saps power going that way (in 2012, Mariners hitters had more success going to left field, that is lefties going the other way and righties pulling the ball, than going to right field, that is lefties pulling the ball and righties going to the other way, according to OPS). This is what is so attractive about the right-handed Hairston, as all of his power is pulled:

What I find attractive about Lewis is the decent platoon splits and the patience. Along with the walk rate, you also get about 4.05 Pit/PA with Lewis. This is something that the Mariners were below league average at, seeing 3.8 pitches per plate appearance. Adding a guy that can play every once in a while and come off the bench and take pitches is always a nice idea. If added to the 40 man roster, I would probably slot him between Chance Ruffin and D.J. Mitchell (so probably 30-32 range, above Medina, Robles, and Peguero and the open roster spots/free agents).

Kosuke Fukudome:

I thought Fukudome was a fantastic signing by the Chicago White Sox for the 2012 season, but it didn’t work out that way. The big Cub signee from a Japan was a disappointment considering his salary, but performed at a MLB level. The 35 year old may return to his home country according to some reports, so he may be a guy that you have to offer a guaranteed contract (but obviously not a large one). He has been about league average since coming to the states, with a 99 OPS +. Athletically, he hasn’t been a good base stealer and isn’t considered a great fielder, so he really isn’t a guy you want starting consistently.

Against right-handed pitchers, he still doesn’t hit for much power, but he has gotten on base 36.6% of the time in his U.S. career. I usually dislike looking at just OBP, but the Mariners outfield had an OBP of just .287 against RHP in 2012. Fukudome would seem to provide an improvement at least in on base ability as long as his skills have not diminished too much. From the time he came to the U.S. until the end of the 2011 season, Fukudome averaged 260.357 feet per batted ball. Last year in his time with the White Sox (small sample caveats apply as he had just 51 plate appearances) he averaged just 247.162 feet per batted ball. On the other hand, he still had about his career norms in K/BB, and hit very well in 166 PAs in AAA (more walks than strikeouts with a 138 wRC +).




Looking at Out of Options Mariners

Trayvon Robinson

As the season ended (with an excellent 12-0 blowout of an Angel team that looked sloppy after being eliminated on Monday) on Wednesday, it became officially time to look at next year (even though we have already been doing that here).

Tacoma Broadcaster Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) tweeted something that was interesting to me. He listed 5 players that had played with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Mariners this year that were out of options. For those that are not familiar with the term (or just find the many rules of MLB rosters and transactions confusing), here is Rob Neyer explaining the situation:

When a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man Major League roster, he is on “optional assignment.” One common misconception about the rules is that a player may only be “optioned out” three times. Actually, each player has three option years, and he can be sent up and down as many times as the club chooses within those three seasons.

When you hear that a player is “out of options,” that means he’s been on the 40-man roster during three different seasons, beginning with his fourth as a pro, and to be sent down again he’ll have to clear waivers

If a player placed on Major League waivers is not claimed by another team during the three business days after waivers have been requested, then the players is said to have “cleared waivers,” and the team has secured waivers for the remainder of the waiver period.

This generally means one of three things:

(1) They can send him to the minors (subject to his consent, if he’s a “Veteran Player,” more on that below).

(2) They can release him, which makes the player a free agent and thus available to sign with any team.

(3) They can trade him to another team, even if the so-called “trading deadline” has passed. Any trades made after July 31 may only involve players who have cleared waivers.

If a player doesn’t clear waivers — in other words, if he’s claimed by another team or teams — the club requesting waivers may withdraw the waiver request.

If the club doesn’t withdraw the waiver request, the player’s contract is assigned in the following manner:

(A) If only one claim is entered, the player’s contract is assigned to that claiming club.

(B) If more than one club in the same league makes claims, the club currently lower in the standings gets the player.

(C) If clubs in both leagues claim the player, preference shall always go to the club in the same league as the club requesting waivers.

So this situation applies to 5 Mariners (actually more, but guys like Jason Vargas and Franklin Gutierrez are not going to be demoted to Tacoma): Mike Carp, Josh Kinney, Hector Noesi, Trayvon Robinson, and Casper Wells. So going into next season, the Mariners are going to have to make the decision as to whether or not these players are worth keeping on their roster, or risk losing them (the links attached to each player is my latest article on each):

Mike Carp

With the (at least apparent) revitalization of Justin Smoak, Mike Carp looks pretty expendable. He is really only a first baseman, and it looks like the Mariners will give Smoak another start as the main first baseman going into 2013. The Mariners lack an immediate replacement to backup first baseman (unless the Mariners move Montero to 1st, which seems likely as John Jaso apparently failed in Spring Training this year), so Carp may be asked to just fill that role for now. Or, as rumors have been circling, he may actually be traded. There were actually rumors during the season that he would be DFA’d after a disappointing rehab assignment ended, but that probably wasn’t a realistic situation. He could be a solid bench player for some team, but really struggled to find playing time at the end of the year. I would be a little surprised (but not this surprised) if he was a Mariner next year (the Mariners may choose to replace him with a cheap veteran to play first, or even play Dustin Ackley at 1st on days Smoak doesn’t start, which I personally don’t think is a good idea).

Josh Kinney

Kinney is arbitration eligible this offseason. I suppose that he could be a useful piece going into next year with the Mariners, but he doesn’t exactly have a lot of value. I most likely would non-tender him. I would invite him to sign a minor league contract to come back to the Mariners, but would be shocked if he took it. Though not worthless, he is a guy you can afford to lose, especially with the Mariners bullpen situation.

Hector Noesi

I think this pretty much solidifies his role as a bullpen pitcher. They won’t be able to send him down to Tacoma to work as a starter anymore. He clearly showed this season that he is not a MLB starter at this point, and barring some really weird event in the winter or spring (I don’t know if he is going to pitch in Winter ball, he got plenty of innings this year, so there is a good chance he won’t), he won’t be a MLB starter in the spring. I think everyone can agree that he has looked good in the bullpen in his last couple of outings, and I think the Mariners can stick him in there instead of risking losing him (he simply throws too hard to be pushed through waivers, someone would claim him). If he can improve his slider (the only secondary pitch he will need in the bullpen unless he wants to throw an occasional changeup), he could be a really good bullpen piece for the Mariners. With Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, and Charlie Furbush already in the bullpen, a Hector Noesi could allow the Mariners to trade Tom Wilhelmsen if they are not in serious contention in June/July and help the Mariners get new talent into the system. It is apparent that the plan of getting Noesi in the Jesus Montero deal was not to put him in the bullpen, but reality must be accepted. The Mariners would be seriously hurting their chances of winning by using him in the rotation or risk losing him by sending him to Tacoma. I could see him possibly being used as a swing man/emergency starter for the first half of the season (until one of the big 3 or Brandon Maurer is ready), but I would love to see him pitch in a 1 inning/match up type role where Eric Wedge can just give him the ball against mainly right-handers and tell him to throw as hard as he can for 60 or so innings a year.

Trayvon Robinson

Robinson played in 44 games last year and struck out nearly 40% of the time and had a wRC + of 64. This year, he played in 45 games, and didn’t improve that much as far as results go, with a 72 wRC +. However, his walk rate improved, and his strikeout rate went down (but was still too high). He has shown a little potential for power, but at the end of the day, he has a .327 SLG and .116 ISO in 89 games in the Majors.

Evidence also suggests that he was more consistent on the bases and defensively this season. His arm really limits him, and with Saunders and Gutierrez on the team, there isn’t a point in letting him play centerfield.

Casper Wells

The 2013 Mariner outfield situation going into spring training will probably look something like this: Saunders, Gutierrez (when not on the DL), Thames (who evidently still has options),Wells, Robinson, and a free agent. I figure they have to sign someone in the free agent market that will make the big league club. It may or may not be a real impact guy, but I doubt that the Mariners can go into Spring Training with a straight face without at least one new MLB outfielder.

Wells’ stock is obviously higher than Robinson’s now, but Wells wasn’t very impressive with the bat this season. He struck out a lot (25.7%), walked less than Robinson (8.0%), and hit for a little power, but not as much as you would expect (.160 ISO). Interestingly, this year broke a string going back to 2007 where Casper Wells was an above average hitter (according to wRC +) at whatever league he happened to be playing in at the time.

If nothing else, he has a better throwing arm as shown by his throw out of Mike Trout at home plate on the final day of the season. He is a solid outfielder on the corners with decent to good speed (I’ve gotten a 4.16 to first base from him, which is pretty quick, especially from a right-handed hitter). Wells is probably the Mariners “4th outfielder” (assuming they sign a free agent), while Robinson is the 5th outfielder.

I would much rather see Thames sent down than risking losing Robinson (Thames’ lack of on base skills and defensive problems are certainly a big reason). Alex Liddi and Carlos Peguero should start in Tacoma and probably stay there (especially Peguero). When I originally started this post, I wrote that even though it made sense for Chone Figgins to be released, there was no reason to think he would not be a Mariner next year. Recent news suggests that perhaps we shouldn’t assume this. They really don’t have anyone in AA or AAA that is knocking down the door to be in the Majors. This is why bringing in at least one serious (by serious I mean a player that has a high probability of being helpful in the Majors) outfielder is going to be so important this off-season. Because of that, I hope to look at a few free agent outfielders this off-season and do scouting reports on them.

Carlos Triunfel’s Big Day


Carlos Triunfel got his first start in the Majors on Friday night. Although he had already had his first career hit against Toronto earlier this month, I had been somewhat curious as to why he had not been playing more. When it was announced that he would be brought up, I assumed that he would get quite a bit of time at shortstop, and that Kawasaki would never play again. Instead, Kawasaki actually started over Triunfel initially when the Mariners didn’t want to play Ryan. I found this perplexing, but the day finally came for Triunfel’s name to be written in the lineup on Friday.

The first ball hit to him at shortstop was a play that Brendan Ryan would have easily made and a play I suspect most MLB shortstops would make. The ball was hit a little to his right and he got to it enough to get his glove on it, but it simply bounced off and the runner was easily safe as Triunfel had to eat it.

However, he got another shot in the 1st, as he was the back half of a double play. After Ackley played a slow grounder and flipped it to him, Triunfel did a good job of getting out of the way from the sliding runner and making a strong, accurate throw to 1st base. In the 2nd inning, he made a play to his right that was harder than the first one. He showed off his really good arm and it was another accurate throw (his problem with the arm in Tacoma was accuracy). It was a nice looking play.

In the 5th, he wasn’t quite in the normal shortstop position, being shifted to the right against Ian Kinsler. Kinsler hit a grounder right into the shift, and Triunfel gobbled it up easily and threw to first for the out. He would also make an easy catch on a high pop-fly in the 8th. Later in the inning, he would make a play very similar to the double play earlier in the game, using athleticism to get out of the runners way and a strong arm to get the runner. He was the back part of another one in the 9th, but this one was much easier.

His first at-bat, against Martin Perez of course, started with him taking a low fastball/sinker. Perez came back with another low fastball, but this one the umpire called a strike. When Perez came back with another low fastball, this one a bit outside or at least on the outer part of the plate, Triunfel swung and fouled it off. At 1-2, Perez was able to go to a changeup and get Triunfel to ground-out to 3rd. As Tacoma Rainiers announcer Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) and the Mariners PR account pointed out, Triunfel has been much better against left-handed pitching (.794 OPS versus .673 OPS over the last two years in the minors), so this was a smart day to start him.

His 2nd at-bat came in the 4th and in typical Triunfel fashion, he swung at the first pitch, an inside fastball. He hit what looked like a ground-ball but it chopped over Michael Young’s head and went into the outfield to the wall for a double. The play scored Casper Wells and Triunfel would score on a Young error.

Triunfel’s 3rd at-bat came in the 6th against right-hander Scott Feldman. For some reason, Olivo was caught stealing after Triunfel watched strike one, a fastball in the zone. He was able to lay off a curve that was in the left-handed hitters’ batters box, but when Feldman hung one in the zone, Triunfel didn’t make him pay, fouling it off and falling behind in the count again. A high fastball in the outer part of the strike zone was fouled off the other way and Feldman hung yet another curve in the zone. Triunfel beat it into the ground and Feldman turned it into an easy out.

I still think that Brendan Ryan is the guy at short going into next year and (hopefully) beyond. I don’t trust Triunfel to contribute consistently, especially with the bat (and before you point out that Ryan doesn’t produce with the bat, remember that he is elite defensively on a level that Triunfel simply isn’t. Just for fun, Triunfel had an OPS of about .050 points higher in AAA than Ryan, but Ryan had 15 more stolen bases in less games). However, he is part of the Mariners future at least for now. They are going to have to decide how they want to approach handling Triunfel going forward, especially for the 2013 season. Personally, I would love to see Triunfel used in the Kawasaki role next year, the utility infielder. He isn’t as fast, but is similar defensively (perhaps a little worse), and could certainly hit more and would be cheaper than signing a free agent (my guess is that they still bring in at least 1 AAAA Andres Blanco/Luis Rodriquez type on a minor league deal just to see). The counterargument is that Triunfel is still just 22 and could use more seasoning by playing every day in AAA. That is a valid argument, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if he was  placed there. What Triunfel’s actual future in the big leagues happens to be is still to be found out. He has gotten his first start in the Majors, which is more than what most players that play minor league baseball can say.

Casper Wells’ Plate Discipline


Casper Wells was one of the pieces acquired in the Doug Fister trade. Since then, he has gained love from a lot of the fans, but has been pretty inconsistent at the plate and will already turn 28 years old in the off-season. Some people are visual learners, so most of this post will be in pictures, as we try to figure out what Wells’ problems at the plate have been.

Here is the heat map based on run values for his career (all of the heat maps are compared to league average):

The first thing you notice is that up and away he is terrible. Down and in is where he has had the most success. Even against lefties he has not been good on pitches up and in. They have also been able to pitch him inside and down out of the zone.

Against right-handers, he has a lot of flaws, especially up:

Wells has had some serious issues with the curveball (both righties and lefties), even in the strikezone:

However, as long as they don’t get the slider in on him, he is pretty good against it:

The fastball is Wells’ favorite pitch to hit, as one would expect:

In many ways, Wells seems to be a “mistake hitter”, taking advantage of fastballs and sliders that don’t get inside (which could explain his dominance in the minors). One thing you notice is that he has only put 447 balls in play in his career. This speaks both to the still rather small sample size we have of him in the Majors, and the amount of times he strikes out. He is walking 7.2% of the time in his career and striking out a whopping 26.5% (this year has been no different, 7.3% versus 26.6%)

The spray chart shows that all of Wells power and the vast majority of his hits are pulled:

Perhaps because he is such a pull hitter, he doesn’t get pitched inside much and has hit for no power on pitches up and in:

Instead, he is pitched a lot low and away. Here is Wells swing-rate against lefties on curves/sliders/changeups/splitters:


As you can see, he swings a lot at pitches that are low and away, even when he has the platoon advantage. For a hitter with pull power, this is not good news. As the spray chart shows, he is not doing a good job of hitting the ball the other way for base hits. His K/BB also shows that this plan simply isn’t working. Casper Wells has some serious plate discipline issues, and even with defensive value and power, it is hard to envision him as a quality starting outfielder until this changes (whether or not it can change or not is a separate philosophical/scouting question).

Gutierrez Up, Wells Down, Serenity Now


The Mariners activated Franklin Gutierrez today.

Gutierrez had been on the the disabled list (technically the 7-day concussion list) since he was hit in the head by a pick-off throw about 2 months ago. The play looked rather innocent, but it obviously turned out to be a big deal (as concussions usually are). He didn’t have to play out his full rehab appearance (it could have been up to 20 days) in Tacoma, playing just 7 games. He looked to be ready though, playing a little defense and looking decent at the plate. I was a little surprised that the team didn’t wait until September 1st when the rosters expand to 40, but Gutierrez, when healthy, is clearly worthy of a 25 man roster spot on this team.

The more surprising move was Casper Wells going back to Tacoma. While Wells was good coming back from Tacoma the first time, he had been slumping quite a bit and while at one time being an average outfielder, was down to a 90 wRC +. He looks like a pretty good defensive outfielder and even got some time in centerfield in the series against the White Sox. Casper Wells will turn 28 in the off-season. He still won’t be arbitration eligible this off-season, but it looks like Wells is not a key part of the Mariners future. If he was, he wouldn’t be sent down to AAA at age 28 when the Mariners are not in a playoff race.

Of course, we all know of a player who isn’t playing very often (and when he did play on Saturday, he played terrible) and has no place in the Mariners future. Chone Figgins has no position, can’t play shortstop (which is the only reason Kawasaki is on the team), and just cannot hit anymore. He is still owed 8 million dollars next season, but no one needs me to use a bunch of numbers to show that he doesn’t deserve a roster spot. The 40 man roster is completely full,  giving the team a lot less flexibility when it comes to roster adjustments in September. Why not designate Figgins to create an open roster spot on the 40 man and allow Wells and Gutierrez to be on the same team. Figgins provides no value. There isn’t a point in keeping him around. Now Wells has to wait until September 3rd, when the Tacoma season ends, to be brought back up. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

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