Tag Archives: taijuan walker

Mariners’ Attendance Increase Highest in MLB

seattle mariners attendance

Mariners’ Attendance Shows Fans Care About Team Again

Over the course of the season, no other team increased their attendance over last season like the Mariners. 25,485 came to the park on average in 2014. That’s a 17% increase over last year. It still only ranks 23rd among the 30 MLB teams home attendance figures but it’s a large leap in the right direction.

It’s absolutely no secret in Seattle, and probably around all of baseball that Mariner fans had lost a lot of respect for their team. A decade of constant losing and a front office that showed zero interest of fielding a competitive team would do that to any cities fan base. That is, until now.

This remarkable 2014 season just came to a dramatic, and disappointing conclusion, with a win nonetheless. The Texas Rangers and their fans became our friends for the final week, yet they were unable to defeat the Oakland Athletics in game 162 of the regular season. So, again, the Mariners will be out of the playoffs.

There is reason to celebrate. The final win of the season was witnessed by over 40,000 strong at Safeco Field. Now you might think that was only because it was the finale of the season, or because Felix Hernandez was pitching. And both of those were obviously factors. But the jump in victories, 16 more than in 2013, is the real reason Seattle fans are flocking back to the ballpark.

If the winning continues into next season, maybe the Mariners’ attendance will approach their record of over 3,500,000 fans coming to Safeco in 2002 – just one year after the club won 116 regular season games.

Guys like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Hernandez deserve to play in front of sold out home crowds. Plus young guys such as James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and the possibility of seeing the rest of the top Mariners draft picks should add even more of a reason for fans to come out and eat some garlic fries next season.

Mariners Play Bad, Add Good Player


So the Mariners got swept again, this time by the division-leading Texas Rangers. A sweep at the hands of the Rangers is a lot easier to deal with that a sweep at the hands of the Angels, because the Rangers are a good team and the Angels are a bad team. But a sweep is still a sweep, and losing three games in a row sucks no matter what. Losing three games in a row and then immediately losing three more games in a row is a massive downer, and the Mariners have responded to all the bad with an attempt to infuse some good.

Aaron Harang is gone, finally, which is the cause for much celebration around these parts. Taking his place in the Mariners rotation will be none other than Taijuan Walker, the top prospect in the Mariners system and one of the more promising young arms in the sport. He has the ceiling of a true number one pitcher, a real ace, and he’s going to start in Houston on Friday. Nobody’s saying for sure that Walker is “ready,” but he’s pretty clearly one of the five best starting pitchers in the organization and now he’s here.

It’s funny, really. There wasn’t really much of a rush to get Walker on the 40-man, nor was he in dire need of extra innings. He’s still rapidly approaching his limit for 2013, and it appears he’ll be able to make maybe three starts in the big leagues before being shut down. The move appears to have been reactionary, a result of the utter flop that has been the last week of Mariners Baseball.

One can’t help but wonder how this would have played out had the Mariners won two or three of their last six games, instead of zero. That may have meant a few extra wins, but it also could have meant a very Harang-y September. I can not express in words the gap in interesting between Aaron Harang and Taijuan Walker. Would you rather eat dry ramen or spaghetti carbonara?

Taijuan Walker is a major leaguer now, and hopefully forever. Hopefully he goes into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner and helps lead the team to ten consecutive World Series wins or something. All we can do now is wait until Friday and let ourselves dream. Or! Or, we could take a moment to revisit the series that just was, as in the series where the Rangers swept the Mariners and prompted the call-up of Taijuan Walker. Right, right. I guess we can talk about that, if you insist.

Monday, August 26 – Rangers 8, Mariners 3

Jumpin’ Joe Saunders is a guy who’s career is “winding down,” as they say, although he’s also a guy who more than justified a $6 million commitment over the winter. After being perfectly acceptable for the last few years, he’s been terrible in 2013. The good of his Monday outing: seven innings, wow good job Joe way to spare the bullpen! The bad: seven runs, three walks, no strikeouts. Joe Saunders is getting 4.86 Ks per nine innings and walking 3.03. He’s got a career-best ground ball rate, shockingly, and a career-worst HR/FB rate, unshockingly. Did I mention that Joe Saunders is not a very good starting pitcher, I think I may have mentioned that.

Against nameless Astros castoff Travis Blackley, the M’s did very little. Brad Miller had two hits and Kyle Seager hit a home run, and meanwhile Nick Franklin’s batting average is approaching Michael Morse territory. Also, the Mariners marketing department still insists on touting Raul Ibanez as the face of the franchise despite the fact that all the uber-casual fans who were high on him months ago have checked out ever since the NFL preseason started. Raul Ibanez is not leading the Mariners into battle against Evan Longoria and the Rays, despite what the Mariners official website says. This game was bad and the Mariners lost. Better luck tomorrow?

More: 15 Seahawks Fantasy Football Team Names

Tuesday, August 27 – Rangers 4, Mariners 3 (10 innings)

This was arguably the best game the Mariners have played out of the last six and they lost it on a balk. A balk. Seriously, CB Bucknor called balk on Danny Farquhar in the tenth inning with a runner on third. The call, of course, was highly questionable, and ended up costing the Mariners a win. But let’s not kid ourselves and act like victory was assured, or even likely, had the game proceeded without that goofy call. The Rangers are good. The Mariners are bad. The Rangers have an elite bullpen, and the Mariners have a broken, awful bullpen. The balk mattered, but it arguably didn’t have a huge effect on the results.

Hisashi Iwakuma struck out seven over seven innings with only one walk and no home runs. The Rangers scored their first three runs off him in the second inning, as guys like Mitch Moreland and David Murphy strung together timely base hits to take back a lead they’d given up early. That early lead was given up by Derek Holland, to the Mariners, which is weird. After Brad Miller and Kyle Seager walked, Kendrys Morales drove Miller in with a double. Justin Smoak hit a long sac fly to bring Seager home, and just like that the Mariners had two runs off an ace pitcher early in the game. Weird. Franklin Gutierrez added a solo shot in the third, and Franklin Gutierrez is back from the disabled list again in case people were wondering where the hell that came from.

Wednesday, August 28 – Rangers 12, Mariners 4

Felix isn’t going to win the Cy Young this year. He might not even finish second, which is a shame because he definitely deserves to at least finish second. He isn’t going to win because Max Scherzer is going to win, and also because he’s been pretty bad for a stretch this August. This performance was one of his worst ever: three innings, nine runs, eight earned. A home run, two strikeouts, and a walk. Eleven hits. Three innings. We’ve seen worse, obviously, but not from Felix. From Felix, this is way out of the ordinary. After the Rangers finished teeing off against the M’s ace, they teed off against Brandon Maurer. Maurer has looked awful all year and one has to think his future is as a mop-up reliever. His stock has fallen just about as far as it could, given the excitement he generated this spring.

Dustin Ackley hit a home run. Dustin Ackley hit a double. Dustin Ackley’s wRC+ is all the way up to 81, still bad but better than it was last season. His .256 average is now fifth-highest on the entire freaking team, and what the hell is happening this is so cool. Kyle Seager hit a home run too, and he’s really good. What if Ackley is good? What if what if what if? All I know is he should play every day from this point forward. Raul and Morse and Endy should all be gone tomorrow, or at least benched forever.

UP NEXT: Mariners @ Astros

Four games in Houston should be all this team needs to turn things around, though they’ve been crappy against Houston before and there’s no reason to expect much from the M’s right now. This series will consist of four games, none of which will be started by Felix Hernandez. One of them will be started by Taijuan Walker, however, which is really exciting. Tai Walker you guys!! This is happening!!

Pitching matchups! Erasmo Ramirez v. Jordan Lyles, Taijuan Walker v. Brad Peacock, Joe Saunders v. Dallas Keuchel, Hisashi Iwakuma v. Brett Oberholtzer. What, never heard of Brett Oberholtzer before? Tai Walker starts Friday! Tai Walker!

Pitch F/X Notes: Beavan’s Delivery and Taijuan’s Curve

blake beavan mariners

blake beavan mariners

One of the many stories coming into spring training from a Mariner perspective was that Blake Beavan had adjusted his delivery. From everything I had heard, he was standing more upright, using his massive size and frame more. Reportedly, he looked pretty good in his first Spring Training outing, and I didn’t see it, but we do have Pitch F/X data from the outing. The only way to quantify the new delivery using the data, at least as far as I could think of, was by release point data. So I grabbed the chart from the spring training game against the Padres, and then his last outing in 2012. The spring training outing is on the left.

Beavan 2013 Beavan 2012

As far as height and consistency, it is about the same, right around 6 feet and inconsistent. However, the data shows that he released the ball closer to his body against the Padres in Spring Training. What does this mean? It is hard to tell at this point. Delivery repetition and throwing strikes is not Beavan’s problem, and he doesn’t have real platoon splits (if you look at DIPs, there is a big BABIP gap, but that is probably not predictive), so releasing the ball closer to his body in order to get lefties out doesn’t seem to be something that Beavan should be concerned with. He also has been pretty healthy, so it is not like this is an attempt to have him repeat his delivery more to stay healthy. It is very likely that this is pretty meaningless. It does appear that there is a difference, but unless it is giving him more movement on his pitches (it doesn’t seem so) or allowing him to throw harder (it is hard to compare big league starts to spring training starts that don’t last very long), it isn’t anything that is real meaningful.

Another spring training story has been the change of Taijuan Walker’s curveball. According to reports, he is moving to more of a spike curve. Walker pitched in the Future’s game in 2012, which was the first time he appeared in Pitch F/X data. His game against the Padres is the 2nd time we have Pitch F/X data, so we will compare the two and see if we can see a difference between the curves in the very small sample size we have.

In the Future’s game, Taijuan’s only other Pitch F/X game, his curve was 77.86 MPH (but the Kansas City park tends to be a little bit fast in MPH). It had a 5.02 inch horizontal break and -5.92 vertical movement. This most compares to Jeff Francis horizontally (Esmil Rogers if you are looking for the closest right-hander) and Franklin Morales (Phillip Humber is the closest right-hander) vertically.

The two curves he threw against the Padres in his Spring Training outing were slightly slower (76.55 MPH on average, but again, once factoring in Kansas City, this is probably just about the same) and had less horizontal break (.81 inches) but more vertical break (-7.11 inches) which is what you would expect in a spike curve. He really went from a 2 plane break curve to a curve that breaks almost exclusively down. Liam Hendricks provides the closest comparison out of qualified starting pitchers in downward movement, while his almost non-existent horizontal movement is closest to Felipe Paulino.

If you look at the 8 qualified pitchers with less than 1 inch of horizontal movement on their curve, they have an average GB % of 45.25 and 28.52 % whiff/swing %. If you look at the 8 curves with the most dramatic horizontal movement, they had an average GB % of 43.5 and average whiff/swing % of 28.9 %. So the horizontal curves were slightly better at getting misses, but were worse at getting grounders. Of course, Taijuan didn’t below to the dramatic horizontal curves, and instead belonged to the ~5 inch of horizontal movement club. The 11 pitchers that have an average horizontal movement of 5.00 to 5.20 inch movement have an average GB % of 54.27 % and whiff/swing % of 24.31 %. Obviously this is a much lower whiff percentage, but it would seem that Taijuan may be leaving a lot of grounders on the table. What about his change in vertical movement? If you look at the 12 pitchers that were from -6.00 inch vertical movement to -5.8 inch vertical movement, where the old Taijuan was, you get an average whiff/swing % of 21.95 and average GB % of 52. So, these were, just like Taijuan’s old horizontal movement, high grounder, low whiff pitches. If looking at people around Taijuan’s vertical movement (-7.00 to -7.2), the 7 pitchers have an average whiff/swing % of 22.32 and average GB % of 54.43 %. So on average, these curves with the better downward vertical movement are just better curves. The horizontal movement sort of suggests that he is trading some grounders for whiffs. Just as an anecdotal note, Taijuan was a very good groundball pitcher in A-ball in 2011, but in 2012 in AA, he was not a very good groundball pitcher at all.

I thought his curve was good before, but if this very small sample size of data is any indication, this new spike curve could be even better. So it seems that the Pitch F/X data is showing us the differences that are we reading about the two pitchers in stories, and does seem to help us quantify, or least start to interpret, their meaning.

2013 Seattle Mariners Top 5 Prospects

mariners top prospects

mariners top prospects 1

Five Seattle Mariners were named in MLB‘s top 100 prospect rankings. Taijuan Walker, not surprisingly, was the very first Mariner on the list at #5. All of baseball considers the 20 year old RHP as one of the very best and that was proven when the Diamondbacks were willing to part with Justin Upton in a trade that would have also landed them the #47 overall prospect, Nick Franklin. It’s looking like more and more of a miracle that Upton rejected the trade and allowed the Mariners to keep their top young talent. Many analysts agreed, saying the package the Mariners were going to give up was too great, even for a young skilled outfielder such as Upton.

Danny Hultzen was the second Mariner, ranked #18, to be included and gives the Mariners the top RHP and LHP duo in the minor leagues. Hultzen is 23 years old, and although Walker is the higher rated prospect – it’s expected that we’ll see Hultzen in the big-leagues first because of his age and development while playing college baseball at the University of Virginia. Hultzen would have been ranked higher had he not had serious command issues in AAA, and had a reputation as a command pitcher when drafted. Hultzen will begin the season in Tacoma (AAA) and will likely get a call up sometime near the middle of the season if he shows he has greater control of his pitches.

One of the fastest players to shoot up the list is the latest Mariners #1 selection from the 2012 draft, Mike Zunino (23). A catcher from the University of Florida, Zunino had been known as a defensive catcher with great ability as a hitter. While spending his first season only playing 44 games, Zunino has shown more skill offensively than behind the plate. One of the major appeals to Zunino is his ability to handle a pitching staff, and with guys like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton coming up along with Zunino, that will be a huge benefit to the organization.

The former Gator will also start the season in AAA, unless he absolutely outperforms Jesus Montero and the newly sign Kelly Shoppach in spring training. Either way, Zunino will get time in the majors in 2013. Lets hope we don’t have another Jeff Clement scenario.

The other offensive player on the list is Nick Franklin. Franklin is currently playing shortstop in the Mariners organization – while many think he’ll eventually move to second base, the M’s are sticking with him as Brandan Ryan‘s eventual replacement, especially with Dustin Ackley as the teams current long-term option at 2B. Off course Ackley could always move back to the outfield where he spent his college career. Franklin did struggle a bit once he was called up to Tacoma, however at just 21 years old he’ll have time to work on everything he needs to improve before the Mariners ask him to contribute with the big club.

The last Mariner to make the list is the final member of the “Big Three” pitchers in the M’s organization. Paxton has two pitches, his fastball and curveball, that would allow him to have success at the MLB level. If he can continue to improve his changeup his chances of staying in a big league rotation will be much greater. Paxton has a solid strikeout rate and some see his future as a star reliever. The Mariners will try to keep him on a path as a starter as best they can. Paxton is also projected to start the year at the AAA level.

The Tacoma Rainiers will start the year with one of the most impressive rosters in all the minor leagues. Three future pitching stars as well as Zunino and Franklin will make them the early favorites to win at the AAA level. By July, and certainly September, it is very likely that all five will be seeing time down the road in Safeco Field.

Here is what MLB.com had to say about each player:

2013 Seattle Mariners Top 5 Prospects

[table id=12 /]

Taijuan Walker and 60 Percent Bust Rates


Last week, the Mariners tried to trade whom many consider the best pitching prospect in baseball in a package to get Justin Upton, before Upton nixed the trade. I thought the trade was a bad idea, but others didn’t agree. Dave Cameron disagreed that it was an overpay and cited a study that showed the attrition rate for pitching prospects. However, what caught my eye was that there was no mention of Walker’s age and the how young he was for his level in 2012 (and that he was pretty successful, better than league average according to SIERA).

Here is a complete list of pitchers that were age 19 in AA with qualified innings since 2006:

Jordan Lyles (2010)

Taijuan Walker (2012)

Complete list of pitchers that were age 20 in AAA with qualified innings since 2006. Here, we are making the assumption that Walker throws a qualified amount of innings in Tacoma in 2013, which seems pretty likely:

Julio Teheran (2011)

Both of those pitchers have had their up and downs in the Majors so far. I obviously went back further, and looked at pitchers in AA that were 19 with at least 100 innings from 2000-2005:

Edwin Jackson (2003)

Oscar Villarreal (2001)

Jerome Williams (2001)

(C.C. Sabathia threw 90.1 at age 19 in 2000. Matt Cain threw 86 in 2004. Zach Greinke had 53 in 2003. Felix Hernandez was 18 when he threw 57.1 innings in AA!)

There are obviously just 3, and 2 of those were above average pitchers (a positive career WAA) and the other one is Jerome Williams, who has had quite a ride, but Walker is obviously in some company that we just don’t know much about (but one we can expect to be better than the prototypical top pitching prospect). There isn’t a large sample size of pitchers having success in the upper minors at such a young age. This somewhat demonstrates my point. Walker isn’t a guarantee by any means, but in my opinion, he doesn’t fit into the category of 60 percent bust rate.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game


As sort of an appendix, I looked at the Baseball America top 100 from 2003 (the last year mentioned in the study linked to above talking about pitching prospect attrition rates) and listed all the pitchers, along with their ages at the time (for ease I just subtracted their current age by 10), level they spent most of 2002 in, and their career WAA.

5. Jesse Foppert, Age 22, AAA, -1.2 WAA

6. Jose Contreras, Age 31, Cuba, 2.7 WAA

9. Gavin Floyd, Age 19, A, 4.6 WAA

10. Francisco Rodriguez, Age 21, AAA, 10.3 WAA

11. Scott Kazmir, Age 18, A-, 6.7 WAA

18. Adam Wainwright, Age 21, A+, 11.7 WAA

20. Jeremy Bonderman, Age 20, A+, -6 WAA

24. John Van Benschoten, Age 22, A,  -4.5 WAA

25. Sean Burnett, Age 20, A +, 2.4 WAA

27. Rafael Soriano, Age 23, AA, 7.2 WAA

29. Rich Harden, Age 21, AA, 9.3 WAA

30. Cliff Lee, Age 24, AA, 18.4 WAA

32. Colby Lewis, Age 23, AAA, -1.2 WAA

35. Jonathan Figueroa, Age 20, RK, No Majors

36. Dustin McGowan, Age 20, A, -2.4 WAA

41. Aaron Cook, Age 23, AA, 4.6 WAA

42. Franklyn German, Age 22, AA, -.4 WAA

43. Dontrelle Willis, Age 21, A, 5.6 WAA

45. Aaron Heilman, Age 24, AA, -2.3 WAA

47. Angel Guzman, Age 21, A+, .1 WAA

50. Jerome Williams, Age 21, AAA, -.6 WAA

51. Ervin Santana, Age 20, A, -1.6 WAA

52. Bryan Bullington, Age 22, A, -.9 WAA

53. Andy Sisco: Age 20, A-,  -.5 WAA

54. Zach Greinke: Age 19, A-, 17.5 WAA

56. Mike Jones: Age 19, A, No Majors

58. Bubba Nelson: Age 21, A+, No Majors

59. Mike Gosling: Age 22, AA, -.8 WAA

60. Bobby Jenks: Age 21, A+, 3.9 WAA

62. Clint Everts: Age 18, A-, No Majors

64. Kurt Ainsworth: Age 24, AAA,  -1.2 WAA

68. Macay Mcbride: Age 20, A, -.8 WAA

69. Bobby Basham: Age 22, A, No Majors

70. Jeremy Guthrie: Age 23, AA, 6 WAA

71. Josh Karp: Age 23, AA, No Majors

73. Kris Honel: Age 20, A, No Majors

74. Dewon Brazelton: Age 22, AA, -6.1 WAA

76. Clint Nageotte: Age 22, A+, -1.4 WAA

77. Chris Gruler: Age 19, A, No Majors

79. John Patterson: Age 24, AAA, 2 WAA

80. Ben Kozlowski: Age 22, A+, -.1 WAA

83. Francisco Liriano: Age 19, A, 1.7 WAA

84. Mark Phillips: Age 21, A+, No Majors

88. Taylor Buchholz: Age 21, A+, .1 WAA

89. Donald Levinski: Age 20, A, No Majors

90. Ben Hendrickson: Age 21, A+, -1.5 WAA

92. Jon Rauch: Age 24, AAA, 2.2 WAA

93. Chin-hui Tsao: Age 21, A+, -.4 WAA

96. Mike Hinckley: Age 20, A-, .7 WAA

97. Jason Arnold: Age 23, A+, No Majors

98. Seth Mcclung: Age 21, AA, -4.4 WAA

99. Edwin Jackson: Age 19, A, 1.4 WAA

There were 21 success (those above average) out of the 54 pitchers that I counted (38.9%, so a little worse than most years). The average age of those successes were 21.57 years old, while the average age of the 54 was 20.56 years old, so the younger pitchers were actually less successful. Of course, this could be an attrition bias, as the younger pitchers are on average at lower levels, meaning they have longer to fail. The average player (excluding Jose Contreras of course) was roughly in A+ on the list. The ones that pitched most of their 2002 innings in A+ or above were successful slightly more than the ones that were below A+. This is interesting, but not very predictive, so I’ll stick to fastball velocity being the best predictor for pitching prospects.

The Fake Justin Upton Trade


According to reports that originally came from Foxsports.com, the Mariners and the Diamondbacks agreed to a trade that would send Justin Upton to the Mariners. However, as has long been reported, Upton has a no-trade clause when it comes to the Mariners (and 3 other teams), and according to that Fox Sports report, Upton nixed the trade. According to CBS Sports, the Mariners were going to send Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Nick Franklin and one of the “Big Three” to the Diamondbacks for Upton.


Upton, or at least the platonic idea of Upton, is what the Mariners need and want. Even though he is right-handed, Upton is an outfielder that has hit both righties and lefties pretty well in his MLB career. Justin Upton has played only played right-field in his career (probably the biggest need in the Mariners outfield), but had a pretty elite season in 2011 with an OPS + of 141. In 2012, he wasn’t able to repeat his numbers, but was still solid offensively, and would have been a bonus to the Mariners lineup. Even if the regressed Upton is the Upton going forward, it is still an every day player without real platoon splits and some real power (even if the defense is somewhat lacking). The additions of Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are laughable compared to what potential Upton would bring, and they shouldn’t be considered when discussing Upton and we shouldn’t have talk of a “logjam”. What is interesting to me is that his OBP (even with a large HBP spike in 2011) has been remarkably consistent since 2008:

2008: .353

2009: .366

2010: .356

2011: .369

2012: .355

It has been his power that has not been consistent, as evidenced by his ISO:

2008: .213

2009: .232

2010: .170

2011: .240

2012: .150

There have been several reasons different looks as to why Upton has not been consistent in the power department (including a lot that has to do with home/road splits. He has been extremely successful offensively in the friendly park in Arizona, but has been very mediocre on the road. One explanation has been that because he plays a lot of road games in Petco and Dodgers Stadium, but he also gets to play in Coors Field and many other hitter friendly parks in the Majors. I think his splits are a big deal). I wanted to get more data, so I went to Baseball Heat Maps and checked Upton’s average feet per batted ball per year and rounded by feet.

2008: 281

2009: 282

2010: 271

2011: 280

2012: 266

So again, there is some inconsistency here, but not quite as much as we saw with ISO (but more than we saw for OBP). Even with the weird 2010, 2008-2011 Upton was definitely an above average power hitter, but in 2012 he slipped to just around average. For reasons unexplained, and even at age 24, it seemed that Upton lost some power.


Upton is due to make nearly 10 million dollars in 2013, and he will make over 14 million dollars in 2014 and 2015. It isn’t my money, but the general rule is that, unless the Mariners continue to dramatically increase payroll, and Upton will take up a rather dramatic part of the payroll over the next 3 years. This is fine if you are getting a real middle of the order bat, but if you are getting an average to below average defensive corner outfielder that has good OBPs but SLGs and ISOs that are around league averages, then he isn’t worth the money he is getting paid, much less the prospects given up for him. This is all academic anyway, as Upton has declined the trade. Of course, that doesn’t mean the trade necessarily can’t happen, as the Mariners could convince him to come by giving him more money or take away some team control (or a long extension with a bunch of money). However, let’s take a look at the prospects the Mariners were going to give up for Upton.

Nick Franklin

While I have been a little cool on Franklin compared to many prospect experts, according to our prospect odds, he is the 2nd most likely Mariner hitting prospect to become a good hitter in the Majors behind Mike Zunino. His “adjusted odds” have him at an over 50% chance of being an impact hitter in the Majors, which is extremely valuable for a middle infielder (even if ultimately he doesn’t play much shortstop or struggles there). This is better than Miller’s chances (not to mention he is better defensively than Miller), and the odd system doesn’t like Stefen Romero and there is a good chance he has to move to a corner outfield position or even 1st base. However, to get something (and Upton is something, he would improve the team), you have to give something.

Charlie Furbush

Other than Carter Capps’ small sample size, Furbush was the best reliever on the Mariners according to FIP, even better than Tom Wilhelmsen. Of course, Furbush was used as a LOOGY many times, but since moving to the bullpen full time, Furbush has been absolutely lights out. However, with the addition to Bobby Lafromboise on the 40 man, with Lucas Luetge and Oliver Perez succeeding last year, the Mariners have the left-handed reliever part of the team already set, even without Furbush. He is a valuable piece, but not as valuable as Upton, and he is replaceable. Giving up Furbush and Franklin for Upton would be a nice deal for the Mariners, however it doesn’t end there.

Stephen Pryor

I just wrote about Pryor earlier this week, and even though he was technically below replacement DIPs-wise in the Majors in 2012, I still think he will be a very good reliever in the Majors going forward. However, Carter Capps is the better reliever and Pryor may be a little redundant. The bullpen is the place of strength on this team. It makes sense to deal from surplus to try to acquire a need. A Pryor, Furbush, and Franklin for Upton deal seems pretty fair, but that is probably about as far as I would go, especially with the monetary concerns.

The most important part of the Fake Justin Upton trade was one of the big 3: Danny Hultzen/James Paxton/Taijuan Walker. Using some crude projections with fastball velocity that I have done in the past, we can do some really simple projections on them using Brooks Baseball data from their AFL appearances and FIP – comparisons for starters using fWAR

Walker: 96.84 MPH, 88 FIP -, ~ 3.8 fWAR a year

Hultzen: 93.13 MPH, 99 FIP -, ~2.8 fWAR a year

Paxton: 94.80 MPH, 98 FIP -, ~2.58 fWAR a year

Of course, people will be quick to point out that there is more to pitching that just fastball velocity, but from the studies I have done, fastball velocity is the best predictor from level to level for pitchers.

James Paxton is the least valuable of the group if you believe that Hultzen’s command will return in 2013 since there are concerns with his command/mechanics (and whether or not he will be a starter in the future) and he is older than the rest. Taijuan Walker is the best of the three, not just because of his projection, but because of the high ceiling scouts see in him and the fact that he is youngest than the three. Of course, none of them have thrown a pitch in the Majors, and pitchers fail all the time, but these guys are about as sure of a thing you are going to see in pitching prospects. They have all had success in the upper levels of the minors, were high round draft picks, have legit fastballs, and at least one MLB breaking pitch a piece. To part with one is a big deal. For comparison, Upton had a 2.5 fWAR in 2012. It was his worst year since 2008, but I just can’t give up one of the big 3 for Upton along with the rest of the package. I do think that the Mariners do catch a break by Upton declining this trade honestly.

Would You Trade Taijuan Walker for Billy Butler?


According to recent reports, the Mariners “covet” Billy Butler, the Kansas City Royals slugger. In fact, they like him so much that they would be willing to trade one of their top pitching prospects to get him. So the question arises, should the Mariners trade Taijuan Walker for Butler?

Butler is a good hitter, with a career 121 wRC + and 123 OPS +. This would put him in the Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, and Miguel Montero range of hitters (at least using their 2012 numbers). He had the best year in his career in 2012, at least according to wRC +, but his walk rate slightly declined and his strikeout rate increased (but it was still a solid K/BB). He has good, but not elite, and not near elite power (although according to batted ball data, he has a homer over 460, which wow). In fact, his Isolated Slugging was (in 2012) under Nick Swisher’s (who doesn’t have power as his main skill either) and was only .012 points above Michael Saunders. He has never hit 30 homers in a season (29 in 2012 was his career high), and there is no reason to think that he would when playing in the more pitcher friendly Safeco. But this is not to say that Butler doesn’t cream the ball. Here is his batted ball data sorted by distance:

For comparison, here is Jesus Montero’s data (because numbers are nothing without context):

Butler’s average batted ball distance is 268.031 (very good) feet for his career. In 2012, it was 271.091, so a little better, but not necessarily considerably better. His line drive rate increased by nearly 5%, but it came from his FB %, not his GB % and according to Baseball Reference’s data, the line drive percentage only went up by 1 %. I just wouldn’t trust that data. He was really good against both lefties and righties in 2012, but better against lefties (as expected). He has been above average against both in his career, but his peripherals are pretty mediocre against right-handed pitchers.

He doesn’t see a ton of pitches at the plate, in fact he was league average in 2012, but he also doesn’t strike out for a guy that provides power. In fact, his contact percentage is not only above league average, it was just under 3 studs in Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, and Robinson Cano in 2012. There is so much to like about Billy Butler as a hitter. However, there are 3 different facets (Hitting/Defense/Baserunning) to position players and the other two is where Butler loses his value.

Despite being 26 years old, Butler has played more games (126 more games!) at DH than he has at first. When he has played at first, he hasn’t been very good. He doesn’t get to as many balls as most first basemen, and every single defensive metric alive (there are some problems with measuring 1st baseman with defensive metrics, but just the eye test says he isn’t very good either) has him as not only as a below average first baseman, but a really bad first baseman.

He is also one the slowest human beings imaginable, which isn’t surprising considering his lack of range. Only 9 players in the MLB (qualified hitters) had a worse speed score than Billy Butler, and two of them were Mariners (Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak). He is really durable, but that has to be helped by the fact that he doesn’t play much defense and obviously doing nothing spectacular on the bases (which I think makes Ichiro Suzuki’s durability amazing. As he has played in at least 157 games every year since 2001 except one and 160 games every year since 2004 except one. Ichiro steals bases and plays in the outfield, and is even a little bit of a showboat out there).

These ties to the DH types like Butler and Mike Napoli with the Mariners really baffles me. Where does one put John Jaso? And why did they trade for Jesus Montero (perhaps this is too simplistic, but it really seems like the Mariners were hoping Montero would become Butler with perhaps a little more power)? I would understand going after a first baseman (because Smoak still isn’t the answer, or you at least can pretend he is going into the season), but Butler really isn’t that, or at least not a very good one. I also understand spending big money on Nick Swisher or Josh Hamilton (and it looks like the latter isn’t going to happen, at least according to comments by Jack Z). Billy Butler is a nice player to have, but he is extremely limited. He is an everyday player yes, but he is a role player and, perhaps most importantly, a role player that doesn’t really fit on the Mariners. Would you play him at first, and watch his defensive value hurt the team and just point out that his offensive value makes him worth starting? Then you could bench Smoak and use Jaso and Montero as the DH/C. Or would you DH him, keep Smoak at first (not solving your problem), and platoon Jaso and Montero? Obviously if you traded for Billy Butler, you would figure out how to play him, but there really is a question as to which problem he solves. The Mariners need good hitting, and Butler is a good hitter, but the (lack of) positional value makes him much less valuable. If you are trading Taijuan Walker, a pitcher that has a chance to be a top of the rotation pitcher, it would seem to be wise to trade him for a player that has more overall skill and positional value than Butler. This doesn’t even bring up the contract situation. If you trade for Butler, you are trading for 3 years of control. The salary is reasonable, 8 million a year in both 2013 and 2014 along with a 12.5 million dollar option in 2015, but you would be watching him walk away at age 29, which would be bizarre (as that is when Walker would really be taking off in the minors if everything goes according to plan, and I should emphasize that it might not). The Mariners are in a position where they could conceivable compete in a really tough AL West within the next couple of years, but they really need a couple of pieces. They really need a good outfielder that can hit, along with 1 or 2 more good hitters, and at least 1 or 2 more good starting pitchers (which could and should come from the minors within the next couple of years). I just don’t think that Billy Butler brings you that much closer, at least not enough that you should part with your best prospect. If you really want a big slugger with defensive questions, pay the money for Mike Napoli. Don’t pay the baseball talent, pay the money.

Some Mariners AA Notes


The Jackson Generals just finished up a series against the Tennessee Smokies (the Cubs AA affiliate). Because of geographical issues, the only time I get to see the Generals (or any Mariners’ affiliate besides the big league club) is when they are on MiLB.TV. Jackson doesn’t have its own broadcast (unlike AAA Tacoma) so I only see games where they play on the road against teams with their own broadcast. So since this happened again, here are some notes on the team:

Taijuan Walker‘s fastball was staying high, and he was getting behind batters. He did get some whiffs when he could throw it for strikes.  Walker walked (see what I did there?) the 2nd batter of the game after he got a really weak ground-out to start the game. The 2nd began with a line drive shot double (but was getting whiffs on his breaking stuff). After a strikeout, he got a weak foul fly-ball but Nate Tenbrink couldn’t catch it and Walker walked him. The next hitter (the catcher who had 1 HR for the season before the at-bat) hit a 3 run homer just over the wall. It is worth noting that there was a delay between the first and second thanks to the weather. This may explain part of the control problems (but Walker hasn’t been sharp for big portions of the year). His curveball looked really good in the 3rd and he started using it almost exclusively, with success. It was all feast or famine for Walker, as he gave up another homer but also got some weak contact.

James Paxton gave up a couple of bunt singles in the first (followed by a broken bat single, so bad luck in the 1st inning for Paxton). He moved okay off the mound (still pretty slow), and it didn’t really appear that the knee was an issue. His changeup looked good and got him some whiffs. His fastball location wasn’t very good though, as he was throwing too many down the middle of the plate. It was about 92-93 MPH and Paxton did get a strikeout with it when he located it. His breaking ball looked good and he got whiffs and strikeouts with it.

Anthony Fernandez had a couple of bad luck ground-balls in the first. After a walk to load the bases, he got another grounder to get a double play. He was getting a lot of grounders, and some pretty weak ones. He got a strikeout on an inside changeup and another one on an outside fastball looking (and another one on an outside fastball to a lefty). He got a whiff on a low 73 MPH change and continued to demonstrate that he could throw the change for strikes. His soft slider hurt him though, as a hanging one turned into a 2 run line drive homer to Jae-Hoon Ha. When his fastball was going well, it worked like a sinker. His control overall wasn’t nearly as sharp as it had been in other games at Jackson this year, as he threw one ball behind a batter and struggled with a high pitch count.

Brandon Maurer‘s breaking ball was awesome early. The curve had good break and he could bury it in the ground and get whiffs. The fastball got him in trouble though early on. In the 2nd, the curve stayed in the middle of a zone and was pounded for a double. He later corrected his fastball command and his first walk shouldn’t have been a walk, but a blown call on a moving fastball by the umpire cost him strike 3 (he threw the next pitch in the dirt for ball 4). He would strikeout the next hitter on a low fastball to get out of the inning. He was missing plenty of bats, a bit usual for Maurer, especially since some of it was with his fastball. He then had control problems, walking 2 batters in an inning and giving up 2 runs in the inning before getting a strikeout on a breaking ball.

Ralph Henriquez crushed a ball off the wall for a double. He was also fooled badly on a slider in the dirt for a whiff. He whiffed big time on a high fastball and fooled badly on a high changeup.  He had his bat broken on another slider.

Johermyn Chavez chased an ugly breaking ball to strikeout a couple of different times. He did take some low fastballs but had a big whiff on a fastball in the high part of the zone to a lefty. He is just having some real problems at the plate, especially with recognition and contact. Considering that the difference between Brandon League and Brandon Morrow is 1.3 WAR (according to Fangraphs) this season, it makes this even more frustrating. His arm didn’t look that impressive from what I saw in this series.

Leury Bonilla was late on fastballs and fooled on breaking balls for some big whiffs. He made some nice plays at 3rd defensively but made a casual throwing error. Bonilla hit a nice line drive on a breaking ball.

Stefen Romero showed off some good speed on the basepaths, taking extra bases including stealing a base basically just on the pitcher (and scoring on a wild pitch). Romero had a really long at-bat where he fouled off a bunch of fastballs, but a couple of them were good pitches to hit. He whiffed on a breaking ball out of the zone and he also hit one that caught a lot of the plate weakly. Defensively, his inconsistencies at 2nd continued.

Kalian Sams hit an absolute bomb. He is basically Joe Dunigan-lite. He hits some real big homers but also strikes out a ton. Not only did Joe Dunigan manage to swing and miss at every single pitch known to man, he also broke a bat. Of course, Joe Dunigan also hit an extremely long homer, one that made the announcers remark that is the farthest they have seen in the park.

Chih-Hsien Chiang hit a few weak grounders and was blown away by the fastball and chased breaking pitches. However, Chiang did hit a hard double on a line on a pitch down the middle and hit a ball the other way pretty well and pulled a line drive for a homer. So he looks a little better than he did when he was DFA’d.

Denny Almonte whiffed on fastballs and couldn’t quite get to a ball in centerfield. He did show off his speed with a bunt single though.

Rich Poythress hit a few pitches down the middle pretty well but had problems with the curve out of the zone. He hits a lot of ground-balls it seems, or at least he did in the series.

Gabriel Noriega had a rough game defensively at shortstop in game 3. He wasn’t able to get to a couple of balls and couldn’t handle a really hard hit ball hit at him. He also had problems on a ball that took a weird bounce. He also had some at-bats that make you question whether he should even be in AA or not. Tenbrink had a whiff on a change and was swinging at low pitches, which was making him hit grounders. He did show more range at 3rd base. There is a lot to like about the athlete that is Nate Tenbrink.

Francisco Martinez returned on Tuesday and struck out chasing a breaking ball in his first at-bat then hit a home run the other way in his 2nd at-bat.

Jesus Sucre was fooled by a changeup for a K. It didn’t get better for him in the next at-bat as he hit into a double play. He did have a line drive single though. Made a great throw defensively to get a runner at 2nd.

Moises Hernandez was hanging his breaking pitch and later paid for it, giving up a long homer. He then walked the next two batters. I can’t imagine Hernandez is long for this organization.

Mauricio Robles made a hitter swing at a breaking pitch that was in the other batters box. He had some control issues though, walking hitters that you normally have no reason to walk. His control looked much like it did early in the season, non-existent.

Yoervis Medina was missing bats with good movement and his relatively new-found command. He also broke a bat. Medina sat at 92-94 MPH with a slider for strikes and buried it once for a strikeout. His change was at 84 MPH.

Jandy Sena‘s fastball looked good with a bit of tail at 94-95 MPH. His change was getting him whiffs at 77 MPH. It stays a little higher than you want it to but Sena definitely had swing and miss stuff.

Carter Capps was throwing his normal 96-97 MPH + and even threw his breaking ball for a strike. However, it hasn’t really changed, its loopy, he doesn’t have much control over it, and it is certainly a below average pitch. With the fastball he has, it just doesn’t matter at this level.

Jonathan Arias got a strikeout swinging with his fastball. He also made Junior Lake look silly on an inside fastball. His breaking ball wasn’t very good though, as it either hung or hitters wouldn’t chase it. It is a really soft slider anyway. He walked a batter but also got a big whiff on a changeup and then a low fastball to get out of the inning.

Jose Jimenez was hitting 90 MPH on his fastball and sort of looked like a soft tosser. They made him throw a lot of pitches but he got soft contact. Major control issues cost him a walk, but he struck out the next batter after getting up 0-2 and basically hanging a breaking ball, only to see the hitter take it. His next inning proved to have more control issues in store for Jimenez. He worked around them though and got 3 weak ground-balls and a swinging strikeout on a breaking ball. He got a whiff on a fastball down the middle to a right-hander, so an optimist might say that his breaking stuff and delivery provides enough deception to make up for the velocity.

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