A quick look at CoolStandings.com reveals something rather interesting. As of this moment, the Seattle Mariners are projected to win more games than the Detroit Tigers. While it remains unlikely that the team will make the playoffs, or even play much in the way of meaningful baseball games in the last month of the season, the Mariners appear set to cobble together a better year than what was anticipated.
How is a team that many picked to have the worst offense in the American League hovering close to an even run difference a third of the way through the schedule? While certainly the uncharacteristic outscoring of the Texas Rangers 31-11 over two games at the end of May helps, the team has counted on three unexpected offensive sources in the early going: Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager and John Jaso.
Michael Saunders: 217 PA, .353 wOBA, .807 OPS.
Three things stick out for Saunders’ season to date that might explain his newfound success at the plate: 1) He’s swinging at more pitches in the zone and maintaining a typical contact rate; 2) He appears to have embraced being a pull hitter rather than attempting to go to all fields; and 3) His numbers against left handed pitching have been phenomenal in an admittedly small sample.
Kyle Seager: 213 PA, .346 wOBA, .798 OPS.
Seager’s main value this season for the Mariners has been his power. In fact, almost all of his numbers are eerily similar to his pedestrian debut last season, except for more than doubling his home run total in a similar amount of plate appearances, helping to deliver an 80 point increase in ISO and a 100 point increase in his slugging percentage.
John Jaso: 103 PA, .343 wOBA, .793 OPS.
With the Tampa Bay Rays blatantly deciding to go in a cheaper and more abstract direction behind the plate, it left John Jaso expendable. However, while the Rays may in fact be enjoying the benefit of improved strike zone manipulation their awful offensive numbers from the catcher position would have been greatly improved by Jaso, whom the Mariners must have been ecstatic to have found available. Seattle’s catcher had a tough go last season, but this year’s numbers and approach are closer to his first head turning year in the league, and likely more indicative of his true talent.
Based on numbers alone, of the three pleasant surprises, I’d pick Jaso to be the most likely to continue taking more walks and striking out less than the typical catcher. After that, the ease with which we can explain Saunders new approach suggests that he’s made a calculated change that could impact his future performance for the better. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t suggest that Seager’s increased power is a fluke, but it’s certainly not as explainable as the other two surprisingly increased offensive threats this year. He is hitting more fly balls, but his HR/FB has still almost doubled from his rookie campaign.
And The Rest
The Houston Astros have already worked out a verbal agreement on a signing bonus for their first overall draft pick, Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa. [FOX Sports Houston]
Let’s have some fun with the names of the 2012 MLB draft. [Value Over Replacement Grit]
The Toronto Blue Jays have an interesting familial connection with supplemental pick Matt Smoral. [DJF]
Convincing evidence that Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman is, in fact, not a real person. [Old Time Family Baseball]
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is apparently happy that Josh Hamilton will not be participating in the Home Run Derby this year. [Dallas Morning News]
The great Derek Holland velocity scare. [Baseball Time In Arlington]
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s pace may have cooled off from earlier in the season, but he’s still collecting a plethora of hits. [The Platoon Advantage]
Velocity decline and the rate of attrition for pitchers. [FanGraphs]
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay’s vesting option would matter a whole lot more if there was a team in baseball that wouldn’t jump at the chance to pay him $20 million for a year of his services, even in 2014. [MLB.com]
Jay Jaffe has five suggestions for improving the state of umpiring. [Sports Illustrated]
Could it be? Oh yes, it’s the return of the bullpen cart. [ESPN]
And it’s yet another catcher injury for the Washington Nationals. [Federal Baseball]
The New York Yankees are attempting to blame StubHub for just about everything. [Deadspin]
The Getting Blanked show is back with some stirring discussion on Cliff Lee, the Diamondbacks loose cannon owner and the value of playing hurt. [Getting Blanked]