Tag Archives: Jesus Montero

What Went Wrong: Jesus Montero’s 2013


Jesus Montero’s 2013 season has gone about as badly as it could have. Montero was sent down in part because of his defense, as the Mariners seem to be finally moving towards giving up on his ability to catch, as it is apparent (as it was to Baseball America years ago, who kept projecting him as a first baseman or a DH in Yankee prospect lists) that he doesn’t belong behind the plate. However, it is unlikely that he would have been sent down if he was hitting. He clearly wasn’t, and you don’t need advanced metrics or stats to tell you that things weren’t going well at the plate in 2013.

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When you look at just some of his peripherals, he looks okay, or at least, not that bad. A 2.7 HR %, reasonable K/BB % (you would rather have some more walks and more strikeouts honestly), the HR/FB % is a little low (which could just be luck at this sample size), not an overly high GB %, actually about half a percent lower than it was last year, and not many infield fly-balls. However, his overall power, outside of homers, was atrocious, as was his batting average on balls in play. Baseball Heat Maps batted ball distance suggests he wasn’t hitting the ball very far, suggesting he wasn’t hitting it very hard and was deserving the low BABIP. Here is his spray chart, courtesy of Texas Leaguers:

Jesus Montero's 2013

If I told you that Montero was a left-handed hitter and you ignored the infield, this spray chart would make a lot of sense. Most of his power comes on balls hit the other way. The scouting report was always that he had a lot of opposite field power, but he has a real absence of pull power, or at least this year, is not pulling many balls for extra bases. One would think, even if a player has really good opposite field power, that they would still have better pull power, unless they are just lacking in bat speed. Keeping this issue in mind, let’s take a look at his pitch data.

First, let’s look at his average locations, where pitchers are throwing it to him, along with his hits, outs etc.

Montero Average Strike Zone

While his hits are more inside than anything else, his runs scored plays (which include homers) are around the rest of the pitches, but a little higher than the average pitch. Nothing out of the ordinary really.

One of the things I found interesting about Montero as a minor leaguer was that he was a highly rated prospect, but he was an all-bat prospect, and he didn’t walk a lot or have great OBPs. I think patience in general has been somewhat of an issue for Montero, as generally he has contact skills, but it sometimes works against him, causing him to make some weak contact and make easy outs. Here are the pitches he swung at in the Majors this season:

Montero Swing Map

Honestly, this doesn’t look bad, rarely swinging at pitches above the strike zone. He has chased some really inside pitches, and a few low and away, but he is getting strikes and swinging at them. I don’t think those pitches that he chased in this chart are the reason he has struggled so far. His outside the zone swinging percentage is higher than league average, but it was actually better in 2013 and 2012.

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This spin and speed looks at only the pitches in play or whiffs, in an attempt to see what pitches he is struggling with:

Montero Spin and Speed

While strikeouts aren’t a real problem for Montero, his swinging strike percentage has gone up. As you can see, Montero was swinging and missing at quite a bit of breaking pitches, especially curveballs. He handled fastballs pretty well, but was not really seeing a whole lot of elite fastballs (weirdly his average fastball velocity seen has gone down each year in the Majors so far, a strange, and random, trend).

If strikeouts aren’t the problem, and we are trying to figure out where his power went, whether he is having problems with inside pitches, or whether he is just unlucky on balls in play, it makes sense to take a look at the pitches Montero has made outs on. Here are the release points and the strike zone locations for the outs for Montero so far in 2013:

Montero Release Points

Again, the vast majority of them are in the strike zone. A good number of them are inside, which explains all the groundouts to shortstop and 3rd base in the spray chart above. He doesn’t seem to be doing very well on pitches up and in the zone. As far as release points go, it is a little strange how many outs he has made on lefties that are low and out. Then again, we saw that many of his pitches he swung and missed at were high spin curves, which are curves usually thrown by lefties. Lefties that are far and out can just drop curveballs on him, and even if they are in the zone, he is either missing or turning them into outs.

There doesn’t seem to be a real easy answer such as “he should quit swinging at these kind of pitches” or “he doesn’t have big league power or bat speed”. Maybe it is just lack of athleticism, as there may be a lot of balls that would lead to getting on base that turn into outs just because he is so slow.  I don’t really believe that is a real answer, but the evidence points a lot to bat speed and guessing, which seem unlikely for a guy that was so heralded in the minor leagues, but then again, prospect gurus miss on guys all the time. Perhaps Montero’s offensive tools were overstated to begin with.

Playing Around with Mariner Starting Lineups



It is that time of the year, as Opening Day is but days away, and we have already discussed the 40 man roster, the 25 man roster, and the starting rotation. So now, let’s look at some ideal lineups for the Mariners in 2013. Nothing seems more controversial and creates more arguments than lineups and lineup order. I don’t think lineup order means a whole lot, but generally, you want to give your best hitters the most at-bats, and have guys at the top of the order that get on base with power behind them. Most importantly, you want to play your best players, and take in account platoon splits.

The difficulty is finding a lead-off hitter for the Mariners. I ended up creating some kind of platoon, but it made me realize just how useful John Jaso would be. Against right-handed pitchers, this lineup has a lot of problems it seems. Even left-handers, such as Dustin Ackley, had reverse splits last year. This is a weird lineup, weird roster construction, and a weird team. It is also difficult to fit in all the corner outfield DH types, especially if you still want to play Justin Smoak, which the Mariners seem to want to do. So here are the lineups I think the Mariners should run out there in 2013 to start the year:

Versus Left-handed Pitchers

Franklin Gutierrez: CF

Kyle Seager: 3B

Jesus Montero: C

Michael Morse: DH

Michael Saunders: Left-Field

Justin Smoak: 1st Base

Casper Wells: Right-Field

Dustin Ackley: 2nd Base

Brendan Ryan: Shortstop

Versus Right-handed Pitchers:

Michael Saunders: Left-Field

Kendrys Morales: DH

Michael Morse: Right-Field

Justin Smoak: 1st Base

Jesus Montero: C

Kyle Seager: 3B

Franklin Gutierrez: CF

Dustin Ackley: 2nd Base

Brendan Ryan: Shortstop


Raul Ibanez: Should only bat against right-handed pitching. I wouldn’t want him to be much of a starter because of his lack of other skills (can’t play in the outfield without embarrassing himself for one). His role should be of a pitch hitter.

Robert Andino: Utility guy, can play anywhere, hopefully doesn’t have to play much. Perhaps the best usage of Andino would be when right-handed closers (or a reliever that the team isn’t going to be yanked off the mound when Ibanez comes up) are on the mound, Ibanez can pinch hit for Ryan, and Andino can take over at shortstop afterwards if the game continues.

Casper Wells (against RHP): Should be successful as a platoon guy and could play everyday if Gutierrez gets hurt. Combination of bat, defense, and running abilities makes for a decent, not a great, but a useful player.

Kelly Shoppach: The backup catcher. Unfortunately, both Montero and him have hit left-handers well historically, but Shoppach has struggled against RHP, and Montero did last year as well. So they can’t platoon.

Kendrys Morales (against LHP): Despite being a switch hitter, the Angels basically used him as a platoon player last year. I am not actually sure how the Mariners should use him, but platooning him is probably the best way to go to start.

Honestly, I think a lot of this discussion will become irrelevant soon, as Gutierrez has not given us any reason to believe he will stay healthy. I also think the Mariners will absolutely disagree with me on several points, and there will obviously be roster changes throughout the year.

An Ideal 25 Man Mariner Roster


In this post, I will look at what I believe the Mariners 25 man roster should be breaking spring training. In future posts, I will look at the rotation and lineups, and this will definitely foreshadow those posts. Jesus Montero did get injured, though no concussion, in the game on Saturday, so that could complicate the roster a little bit, but for now, as I didn’t at the time I published the article, we will pretend he will be ready for the season. I put some comments next to the players that aren’t obvious locks, and explained the “near misses” below.

Pitchers (12):

Felix Hernandez

Hisashi Iwakuma

Joe Saunders

Erasmo Ramirez: He struggled in the WBC qualifier that he shouldn’t have pitched in anyway, and didn’t have a great spring. However, he was good when it counted last year. His fastball is down, by nearly 2 MPH, and that is concerning. Since he did have an elbow injury in 2012, you wonder if there should be some concerns about his health. With that said (and I want to look at his data a little more, perhaps in a future post), he should go on the DL if he isn’t viewed as to be healthy, or be on the big league club. Pitching innings in Tacoma just won’t help him, especially if he is hurt. He can pitch in the Majors, and the replacements for him aren’t as good.

Brandon Maurer: This is the most controversial inclusion, and the one I am most reticent about. However, he is projected as a big league pitcher, had success at a high level at AA, shown a plus fastball, at least 3 other pitches, and solid consistency in release point. At some point, unless you just have a better pitcher to take the spot, and the Mariners don’t seem to, then you are delaying for no reason. Unless the Mariners are just really concerned about the future salary implications (which seems a little presumptuous and may ignore current needs), then he should break camp with the team.

Tom Wilhelmsen

Charlie Furbush

Stephen Pryor: There have been some questions about whether he would break with the team, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t.

Carter Capps

Oliver Perez

Kameron Loe: Loe was easier to add to the team than I thought. The Mariners have good relief depth, but Loe can help this team I believe, and it isn’t hard to clear room for him, as I laid out in the 40 man roster post.

Lucas Luetge: He was a guy I was willingly to leave off, as he has options and is clearly the 3rd lefty. However, there isn’t another reliever that really deserves the spot in my opinion.

Hitters (13):

Jesus Montero

Kelly Shoppach: Since Zunino was optioned, obviously he is the backup catcher, and the only “true” catcher on the roster.

Kendrys Morales

Michael Morse

Raul Ibanez

Franklin Gutierrez

Michael Saunders

Casper Wells: There has been competition between Bay and Wells, but Wells is the clear choice for me. While Wells has been above league average at every full season stop in his career excluding 2012, his down year (which was still a 98 wRC +) Bay has been an absolute disaster over the last couple of years. Wells also has more fielding and running tools than Bay.

Brendan Ryan

Robert Andino: The logical utility player on the team. If nothing else, the Trayvon Robinson/Andino trade gave the Mariners a guy with a clear role (and Robinson doesn’t have a role on the Orioles).

Dustin Ackley

Kyle Seager

Justin Smoak

The two differences Jason Martinez of MLB Depth Charts has from me is Jason Bay instead of Casper Wells and Blake Beavan instead of Maurer.

Just Missed (not including Jon Garland because that move has already happened):

Jeremy Bonderman: Stuff looks gone to me. If he is willing to pitch in Tacoma that would be welcomed, but even then, I don’t think he should take away starts from even a guy like D.J. Mitchell.

Jeremy Bonderman

Carlos Triunel: He has a chance to reach the Majors if there is a problem before Brad Miller or Nick Franklin are ready. I liked the idea of him being a utility player, and I don’t like the DH/1B/RF/LF heaviness of the Mariners roster. However, it was really hard to fit him on the roster, and he has already been optioned anyway.

Jason Bay: I just cannot justify keeping Bay and getting rid of Wells. Obviously my 40 man roster ranking reflects this.

Blake Beavan: If you are going to let Garland walk, then you can’t have Blake Beavan take his place. At least not in the context of signing Ibanez and trading for Morse. If you are going to make moves that put emphasis on 2013 (whether or not they were actually good moves is irrelevant here because we are talking about intent) then letting Blake Beavan start big league games in non emergency situations shows a lack of preparedness for the 2013 season.

Mariners sign Kelly Shoppach


The Mariners have signed catcher Kelly Shoppach to a MLB deal worth 1.5 million dollars with an extra 500,000 to be gained in incentives.

Shoppach started 2012 with the Red Sox, splitting time with Jarrod Saltalamachia, before he was traded to the Mets. He had a solid offensive year, with a 97 OPS + (Jesus Montero had a 95 OPS +), right around his career average (96 OPS +).

Offensively, Kelly Shoppach is known for his gigantic platoon splits, as he is good against lefties but very bad against righties. For his career, the 32 year old has a .510 SLG against lefties, but .368 SLG against righties. He strikes out nearly 35% of the time against righties, which is shocking. Against lefties, he isn’t much better at making contact, striking out nearly 31 % of the time. The difference is walks, as Shoppach walks 9.7% of the time against lefties and just 7.5 % against righties. Unfortunately, these are the same platoon splits that Jesus Montero showed in 2012. As evidenced by the platoon splits, Shoppach is known to hit for not much average, but with some pop and walks. Since coming into the league in 2005, his .192 ISO ranks 7th out of all qualified catchers, better than Miguel Olivo, MVP Buster Posey, and Salty. The strikeouts are really unprecedented though, as he has a higher strikeout rate than not only all of the qualified catchers since 2005 (Salty is 2nd), but all of the qualified hitters as well (even worse than Mark Reynolds and former Mariners Russell Branyan and Jack Cust). He used to be more of a ground-ball hitter, but over the last two seasons he has been hitting more fly-balls, which seems like a pretty good idea, considering his career OPS on fly-balls is over 1.200 (when league average is a little over .800). This also suggests that he has pretty real power and strength. Even on the wrong side of 30, Shoppach’s power doesn’t seem to be going away, as his ISO was at career averages in 2012.

However, Shoppach had two really bad seasons in a row in 2010 and 2011. Even though his peripherals were a little bit bet than they were in 2012, he had an OPS of less than .650 and didn’t hit for the same power he was accustomed to.  As usual, I looked at batted ball distance to see if we could see a trend. From 2007 to 2009, when he had a 112 OPS + with Cleveland, his average batted ball went 275.8 feet, which is very good. In his two years with Tampa, 2010-2011, Shoppach’s average batted ball went about 266 feet, which isn’t bad, but obviously a big drop (considering he had 440 plate appearances with the Rays, it was about 3960 feet lost, or about 10 homers worth of feet). In 2012, Shoppach was actually worse despite the improved numbers, with about 261 feet per batted ball. So why did the numbers change so much?

My first suspicion is park. The Tampa Bay Rays park plays pitcher friendly, rated at about a 92, with 100 being average, in park factors. However, home/road splits don’t seem to be very helpful, considering he was better at home one year with the Rays, and better on the road the other year. In 2012, with the Mets and Red Sox, he was about equal (slightly better at home) on the road or at home. Since he played a lot of the year with the Red Sox, AL East pitching doesn’t seem to be a very good explanation. BABIP seems to be big reason for the difference, as his 2012 was an unsustainable .352 (career average .314) and while in 2010 his BABIP was about his career average, his 2011 BABIP was .100 points lower. His ground-ball rate and infield fly-ball rates were either career highs or very close to career highs in 2010, but this wasn’t his low BABIP year. So perhaps what Shoppach actually is as a hitter is somewhere in between, that is, somewhere in between a 71 OPS + player and a 96 OPS + hitter. That is a pretty big range, but he is a below average hitter (which can be okay for a catcher), that seems to be regressing power wise, both according to batted ball data and according to HR/FB %. Even with the new Safeco fences, I don’t think he will hit for a whole lot of power for the Mariners. However, he should run into a few balls and fits into the overall theme of the Mariners off-season as an older bad body player with some pop.


On the bases, he is considered one of the slowest players in the league and has sometimes made a fool of himself trying to run. However, his 2.3 speed score is better than Ronny Paulino’s and Montero has been trying to “learn how to run”, so it is hard to complain about this aspect of his game (especially since speed is pretty irrelevant when evaluating catchers).

Kelly Shoppach is considered a good defensive catcher by many, but as Marc of USS Mariner pointed out, catcher defense is extremely hard to quantify and both philosophy and data is constantly evolving. Personally, in just watching him over the years, I haven’t thought that Shoppach is a particularly strong defensive catcher. In 2012, he was a borderline starter, as he was about 33rd in plate appearances caught in the Majors. According to Matt Klaassen’s defensive catcher rankings, Shoppach was worth -1.6 runs in 2012, which would place him at about the level of Russell Martin and Mike Nickeas at about 90th place of about 116 catchers. Obviously that run value is bad, but Russell Martin didn’t hit much at all in 2012 and still get a 2 year deal worth much more than Shoppach this off-season. Either the Pirates are expecting a bounce back with the bat, are terrible at evaluating catchers, or there is reason to believe he Martin is a good defensive catcher or at least provides some value. I’ll let the reader decide when it comes to the Russell Martin contract. Nickeas on the other hand, is not even a replacement player and is not considered a good catcher. Shoppach was really below average in all 4 categories Klaassen outlines.

According to Subjectively Speaking, Kelly Shoppach is roughly average at “pitch framing” according to Pitch F/X data. This was one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Rays let Shoppach walk after the 2012 season and traded John Jaso. The Rays signed Jose Molina to replace them since data showed that Jaso was a poor pitch framer, costing the team runs, Shoppach was about average, and Jose Molina was the best in baseball. For the Mariners, shoppach is an improvement over both Jaso and Montero, but hasn’t been as good as Ronny Paulino over his career. Paulino has strangely gotten worse (one would expect skills like pitch blocking to regress a little, and maybe even the arm to fade a little, but you would expect his ability to influence balls or strikes to regress) and has been well below average the last two seasons.

Even if he isn’t particularly good, Shoppach obviously fits a need. The Mariners evidently plan on using Shoppach as a defensive replacement late in games with occasional starts. Coming in as a sub is rather routine for Shoppach, as he has done it in 101 games, roughly a 5th of his career, and he hasn’t been much worse offensively when doing so. They still seem intent and insistent on using Jesus Montero as the full time catcher. While I argued adamantly after the trade that the Mariners need to give Montero a serious shot at catcher since there is such a big difference in value between catcher and DH (and even first base), he showed last year that he is clearly costing the team back there. The numbers, the eye test, and the scouting reports all show that Montero is just not a very good defensive catcher. Perhaps there is some hope that he will get better, but I can’t think of a lot bad fielding catchers coming to the Majors and improving dramatically defensively (there may be some anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but they usually just get worse as they age or move off to the position completely). Also, the Mariners current roster construction doesn’t really allow them to use Montero as a DH and moving him to first, even if he was okay there defensively, won’t really help the team considering the 1st basemen they already have. Since it is a big league deal, once finalized, the Mariners will need to boot someone off the 40 man roster. Obviously all along I have been saying that the Mariners should DFA Carlos Peguero. It also becomes increasingly unclear where Jason Bay fits on this roster. Mike Carp is very unlikely to be DFA’d (I think they should trade him, They won’t get much, but he is out of options and there is no room for him on the roster. They might as well get some low ceiling high level prospect or medium ceiling very low level prospect for him), but probably won’t break camp with the team. For me, the Shoppach deal means Paulino starts the year in Tacoma (probably backing up Zunino) as they don’t really have room for 3 catchers (although with Montero on the roster, it isn’t a bad idea) and Shoppach may not be much better, he does have the MLB deal, which gives him the obvious advantage of making the team. This could all work itself out in several different ways. One possible way is Montero struggling mightily behind the plate and Zunino not being quite ready for the Majors most of the season (say he continues to struggle blocking balls), making Shoppach the main catcher for a lot of the season. Another way is Zunino being ready quickly and the team is way out of first place, meaning Shoppach gets shopped out.


Projecting the Mariners Defense: The Ultimate Sacrifice?

andino misses tag

In 2012, much like 2011, the Mariners were an elite, or at least a very good, defensive team. They were 8th in UZR and 9th in DRS, showing above average range and avoiding errors (though their arms were below average). Since the beginning of the 2009 season, the Jack Z era, the Mariners are 5th in UZR and DRS with the 4th best range of all the teams in Major League Baseball. It hadn’t lead to wins, since they have been the worst offensive team since then, even using park factors and are one of the worst pitching teams since then using defensive independent metrics and park factors. The Mariners are the 3rd best team (behind the Rays and Reds) in difference between FIP and ERA. While some of that could be the park, defense also plays a factor as they are the 8th best in difference between ERA and FIP on the road. You can point to the runs, even if the problems in defensive metrics don’t allow us to arrive at the exact number, that their elite defense, especially with a team that has been horrible in nearly every other facet of the game, has saved the Mariners.

With all this said, their seems to be some kind of shift in the Mariners philosophy this off-season. Without going into detail about how the Mariners have been acquiring a lot of bad fielding corner outfielders that should be playing 1st base or DH, let’s look at the Mariners main offensive acquisitions (non-catchers) this off-season along with their 2012 UZRs:

Robert Andino: -3.5

Kendrys Morales: 2.2

Jason Bay: -1.8

Michael Morse: -8.9

Raul Ibanez: 1.8

Mike Jacobs: -2.4 (FRAA since he had limited time in the Majors).

As you can see, it appears that the Mariners are taking a step back defensively, especially when you consider that the two positive UZR players, Ibanez and Morales, are not only considered poor defenders, but have played a significant amount of time at DH. So while the projection systems will be coming soon (I think the Mariners ZIPs comes in later this week), giving us a better idea of what the Mariners defense (and offense for that matter) should look like, I wanted to do a simple projection that I’ve used before. Defensive aging curves are not as readily available or developed as offensive aging curves, but it is generally thought and shown that once beyond ages 22 to 24, players usually begin to get worse defensively (meaning the aging curves are much more aggressive than for hitters). To create a very simple aging curve that I wouldn’t live or die by, but that might be useful enough for this post, I broke down the UZR’s for each age (24 to 40) and will adjust each player’s projection based on age.

24: 25.6 in 5 players, 5.12 per player

25: 13.9 in 19 players, .73 per player

26: -36.9 in 16 players, -2.31 per player

27: -29.4 in 7 players, -4.2 per player

28: 35.2 in 14 players, 2.51 per player

29: 22.92 in 16 players, 1.43 per player

30: 31.6 in 13 players, 2.43 per player

31: -13.5 in 13 players, -1.04 per player

32: 10.9 in 9 players, 1.2 per player

33: 2 in 4 players, .5 per player

34: 2.8 in 3 players, .93 per player

35: -9.4 in 3 players, -3.13 per player

36: 6.7 in 6 players, 1.12 per player

37: 0

38: 8.7 in 3 players, 2.9 per player

39: 0

40: 0

Because of the survivor bias, we don’t really see a correlation here. So we would adjust for age in this post. What we will do though is look at the 3 major defensive metrics, UZR, DRS, and FRAA for each player over the past 3 years (the general rule is that three seasons is what is considered a significant sample. If a player has less than 3 years of experience, or has not been in the Majors all 3 years, obviously we just throw that year out when it comes to DRS and UZR. If they were in the minors, we will still use FRAA) and create an average for the 9 different figures. We won’t look at catchers (because their are better metrics to use other than the basic defensive metrics when it comes to them, especially when we are looking at things like pitch framing), but we will look at 13 other Mariners that I think have a significant chance of making the team.


Justin Smoak: -3.9

Kendrys Morales: -.8

2B: Dustin Ackley: 3.04

SS: Brendan Ryan: 17.6

ryan is good

Robert Andino: 3.08

3B: Kyle Seager: -.2


Michael Saunders: -.7

Franklin Gutierrez: 3.7

Michael Morse: -7.3

Raul Ibanez: -11.9

Jason Bay: -3.2

Casper Wells: 2.57

Eric Thames: -4.21

According to these projections, it looks like the Mariners defense will be below average in 2013, 2.32 runs below average. This isn’t far below average, so they won’t be an extremely poor defensive team (until you add the catching into it, which currently stands at Jesus Montero and Ronny Paulino, both below average catchers last year), but they won’t be the strong defensive team they were. Whether the defensive sacrifices will help their offense enough to compensate for this projected loss of defense remains to be seen and we will take a deeper look into this in the very near future.

Ground-Balls, Contact %, and the Difference Between Jaso and Paulino

Staff Photographer

Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs recently did studies that showed which numbers for both pitchers and hitters were the most predictive. For hitters, contact percentage proved to be the best predictor from season to season, while ground-balls were the best predictors for pitchers. If these statistics are the best predictors, then if a player has a significant change in them one way or the other, it is a bigger deal than if they have changes in those numbers than other numbers.

Michael Morse didn’t see a contact % drop in 2012 from previous years, but struggling Dustin Ackley’s actually improved by 2 %. Brendan Ryan saw a concerning drop of nearly 2%, which was a career low. Michael Saunders had a career high contact %, showing that his improvement was perhaps real. Weirdly, now former Mariner John Jaso’s contact percentage actually dropped. Kendrys Morales’ contact % predictably dropped when he came back from injury.

King Felix saw a small drop in GB % in 2012 from his career norms, as did Blake Beavan. It is hard to compare most of the Mariners pitchers since pitchers like Erasmo Ramirez, and Hisashi Iwakuma had no prior MLB experience. Former Mariner Jason Vargas saw a decent increase in ground-ball percentage last year, as did Kevin Millwood. Hector Noesi saw a big drop in ground-balls as a Mariner, while Charlie Furbush was basically the same in 2012.

The newest Mariner, Ronny Paulino, saw a drop in contact percentage in 2012, but he only played in 20 games. In 2011, he put together his best contact percentage of his career in a much bigger sample size. I have written about Paulino here before, but I wanted to see if we could quantify the difference between Jaso and Paulino. The question with Jaso was always defense, so let’s see if we can quantify the differences between the two. According to Matt Klaasen’s authoritative catcher rankings, Paulino was worth -.7 runs in 2012, while Jaso was worth -1.2. Of course, as we said above Paulino’s 2012 in the Majors was a small sample size, and you always want to look at multiple years anyway. In 2011, Paulino trended negatively again, worth -3.7 runs, but Jaso was worth -4.6 runs with the Rays. What about pitch framing? According to @Yonada’s (a Japanese Sabermatrician) work on pitch framing, Paulino has been worth positive 5 runs in framing since 2008, while Jaso has been worth -17 runs (for the record, Montero, who projects to catch a ton in 2013, was -4 runs in 2012). So defensively, this is the big difference between the two players. Just based off of empirical probability, we would expect Paulino to be worth ~ 6.2 runs more defensively than Jaso. Offensively, we can use the simple fantasy projections from MLB on the Bump (@mlbonthebump) since ZIPs isn’t out yet for the Mariners or Paulino. Paulino is projected to hit .264 with a 6.5 BB%  and 4 homers (1.5 %). Jaso on the other hand, is projected to hit .255, but with a 13.2 BB%, and 7 homers (2.1 %). So clearly, Jaso is projected to hit for more power, and get on base more than Paulino. Paulino is projected to get on base about 86 times, while Jaso is projected to get on base about 120 times. Even if we are extremely regressive and assume that just 1 in 4 of the times a hitter gets on base he scores, Jaso is still worth 8.5 runs more than Paulino, even without calculating power. If you assume each homer is worth about 2 runs, this brings Jaso to 14.5 runs better than Paulino in 2012 offensively. So if we combine the offense and defense (and assume that since they are both catchers, they are both bad baserunners, though Jaso is a much better baserunner according to speed score), Jaso is worth about 8.3 runs more than Paulino (obviously when the better projections come out, we will have a better idea).

Of course, that Jaso is better than Paulino is no surprise, as Paulino will make a maximum of 1 million dollars (versus Jaso’s 2013 salary of 1.8 million). When I wrote up the trade, I did say that I think that Jaso is better than Morse, but just how much better? The big thing is team control. Paulino and Morse will both be free agents after the 2013 season while Jaso will be under Oakland Athletics’ team control for two extra years. So the combination of Morse and Paulino for 2013 would have to be better than 3 years of Jaso for the Mariners to win the trade from a value perspective. There is no rational reason to believe this. To go back to the MLB on the Bump projections, Morse is projected to hit .284 with with 24 homers and 29 walks in 525 plate appearances, or worth about 90 runs according to our regressed formula. This actually would put the combination of Morse and Paulino over (or at least close to) 3 years of Jaso. I don’t really believe that, but the projection is interesting, even if it’s main purpose is to just to play devil’s advocate.

Paulino does one of the things Jaso can’t do, he hits left-handed pitching. Of course, Jesus Montero had huge platoon splits in 2012, as he hit left-handers really well but really struggled against right-handers. Replacing Jaso with Paulino means that the Mariners do not really have someone to catch and hit right-handed pitchers (75% of pitchers) unless Jesus Montero improves in 2013.

Mariners trade John Jaso for Michael Morse


The Mariners, in a 3 way deal also involving the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals, traded John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics for Michael Morse from the Washington Nationals.

Jaso will be going to arbitration for the first time this year. Despite his extreme platoon splits, the catcher/DH was the Mariners best hitter with an OBP of almost .400. At times, he was the only player on the team that was taking pitches and working walks, a role that Chone Figgins was supposed to fulfill, not only when he was signed, but when he was moved to lead-off to start the year in 2012. Jaso was acquired from the Rays for reliever Josh Lueke in what seems like the best move of the off-season (even with the no risk signings of Millwood, Perez, and Kinney all working so wonderfully. Even though Pineda missed all year, it is hard to call that trade a win as Hector Noesi was horrible and Jesus Montero was not very good, either offensively or defensively). He was a mixed bag in spring training, changing his stance in a way that lead to offensive success (he changed his stance, then had offensive success, whether or not the success was because of the changed stance is a different issue) but he evidently failed defensively at 1st base and never played a real game there (only playing in the backfields).

He had a career year in 2012 with a 143 wRC +, so on one hand, the idea of the Mariners trying to trade for someone who had a down year compared to his career averages (Justin Upton) and trading away someone who just had a career year (in Jaso) is smart. However, they didn’t get good value on either trade (even the fake one). They were willing to give away some of their best prospects for Upton in a deal that seemed to be slanted towards Arizona and then dealt their best hitter for a seemingly inferior player.

Mariner fans are somewhat familiar with Morse already. Morse is a 30 year old outfielder that spent most of the year in left-field for the Nationals. He was originally drafted in the 3rd round by the White Sox in 2000 and was acquired by the Mariners along with Jeremy Reed and Miguel Olivo for Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis in the middle of 2004. He made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2005 and played in 72 games along with a few scattered games over the next 3 seasons. He was then traded to the Nationals for Ryan Langerhans in the middle of 2009. After his non distinct career with the Mariners, Morse established himself as a very nice hitter in 2010 and followed it with a good 2011. Over those two years, he had a 142 OPS +, and even with bad defense, was still worth two wins over average over those two years. In 2012, he took a step back, with a 112 OPS +, when he had a -.5 WAA. So while Jaso had a career year, Morse took a step back. So the question is obviously “which one is more real?”. Is Morse’s 2010-2011 real, or is his 2012 more of his true talent? For Jaso, is his poor 2011 more of what he really is, or is his 2012 real? When you look at peripherals (which are usually more predictive than just raw OBP/SLG totals), Jaso is easily a better hitter, walking more than he struck out in 2012. Morse walked a grand total of 16 times and struck out 97 times. Even in his best season, he walked 36 times and struck out 126 times. As far as batted ball distance goes, the average non bunt Morse has put into play has went 269 feet since 2010. For Jaso, the average batted ball has went 256 feet in that time period. So there is a clear power difference between the two, and that seems to be what the Mariners are betting on. Morse also doesn’t have platoon splits (.830 OPS against righties and .860 OPS against lefties), meaning he can play every day, while Jaso is limited to starting about 75% of the time thanks to his platoon splits.

Washington Nationals Michael Morse (38)

The big question is who catches on the Mariners? The Mariners already had a catcher problem with just Jaso and Montero, two extremely weak defensive catchers on the 40 man roster. I had already been suggesting that they sign someone like Yorvit Torrealba or even Kelly Shoppach. These two players may still be options. The Mariners obviously need another catcher, with just Montero, who may not even be a real catcher anyway, on the 40 man roster. This has caused speculation that Mike Zunino will be promoted and start the year at catcher.

To me, the really bizarre thing is Jason Bay’s 40 man roster spot. It was strange that he was given one to start with, and now with yet another bad fielding outfielder/1B man on the team, he seems redundant, even if you expect a dead cat bounce and health. Especially since the Mariners need another catcher. Even if they decide to bring up Zunino, they will have to clear a 40 man roster spot for him. This would have to mean either Peguero or Bay will be gone. The easy solution (and I have been questioning why this hasn’t happened already) is to DFA Peguero, but Peguero does not have to make the team out of spring training, while Bay does (unless he bizarrely accepts a minor league assignment). Neither would be claimed, but both could become free agents as well (I believe that is the case with Peguero, unless he hasn’t been outrighted before. If he hasn’t, then he can be outrighted to the minors with being given a chance to test free agency). Either way, I don’t think either player will help the Mariners at all, and both are most likely disposable. One catching option might be George Kottaras, who was DFA’d by the Athletics after the trade. He has hit well, especially when it comes to walks, but he isn’t a good defender. He can shortly be defined as a somewhat lesser John Jaso. He might be somewhat of a fit, but again the Mariners would have to DFA Bay or Peguero, which they seem unwillingly to do.

Another key difference between Jaso and Morse is salary and team control. Morse will be a free agent after the 2013 season and will make more than Jaso. Jaso also has 2 more years of control and is a year younger. To me, this trade doesn’t make a lot of sense. I get the power and lack of platoon splits, and I don’t care about the money (as it is late enough in the off-season it is unlikely that the Mariners are going to want to add much more payroll anyway), but the team control, positional value, and walks to strikeouts really hurt the Mariners in my opinion. Unless they are going to trade, re-sign, or extend a qualifying offer to him after the 2013 season, the Mariners will only have Morse for one year, and they aren’t likely to get a playoff spot with or without him.

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.

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