Tag Archives: Edgar Martinez

Way to Go Mike Zunino!

It was great to see Mike Zunino hit a 2-run walk-off home run last night to beat the Minnesota Twins, 6-5.

And I guess at this point in Mike Z’s career, one can only think of the Grateful Dead’s line from their iconic song, Truckin’:  “Sometimes the light is shinin’ on me, Other times I can barley see, Lately it occurs what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Indeed, Zunino’s career with the Seattle Mariners has been a strange trip.  Right now, his batting average for the 2017 season is .229, the highest he’s held in his 5 years with the Mariners.  And it has to be frustrating to him since being drafted 3rd overall by the Mariners in 2012.

Defensively, Zunino is one of the best in the major leagues.  He calls the games really well and has that innate quality to settle pitchers down when needed.

But for far too long, he was a black hole in the Mariner line-up.  Striking out at a pace that bordered on the ridiculous, missing pitches that he should have crushed and pretty much not having a clue what to do once he got to the plate.

Zunino was sent down earlier this year to get his swing right.  No one can deny his strength.  After all, in 2013, he did hit 22 home runs while hitting a paltry .199 for the year.  But working with Scott Brosius when he was sent down, as well as with Mariner great Edgar Martinez, they got Zunino to apply a set of rules that he can focus on.

The result?  His last 8 games has been nothing short of amazing.  Average:  .444, On base %:  .485, Slugging %: .900.  No one can expect him to keep that pace and we’ve seen surges from Zunino before.  And it would be hard to expect a career .214 hitter to suddenly become a .400 hitter for the rest of the year.

However, one can see when Zunino comes to the plate, he has a plan, something he didn’t have before.  The testament to that was a conversation that manager Scott Servias had with him after Tuesday’s nights game when he struck out 3 times.  Servias had asked him about those at bats.  Instead of giving the skipper a deer in the headlights look and a “I don’t know,” Zunino knew exactly what was going on.  He told Servias that “I got a little quick, I gotta slow my leg kick down, my timing is going to be fine, I’m going to be OK.”  I don’t think last year you would have heard that from Mike Zunino.

And the next night, that proved true with Mike going 2-3 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI’s, a walk and zero strike outs.

Oh sure, there have been some slight mechanical changes.  He is standing up a little straighter at the plate and his head his more turned to the pitcher to allow better tracking on the ball.  And when you have only .4 seconds to decide on whether or not to take a swing, every advantage helps.

But for the longest time, Zunino didn’t have a clue what to do at the plate and could no longer rely on his natural abilities.  The pitchers at the major league level are the best in the world and will figure out your weakness and unmercifully expose it on a constant basis.  After all,  it’s their job to do so.

And these pitchers will make adjustments to Zunino and then the real test comes:  Will Zunino still trust his process?  Will he stick to the plan and continue to only look for pitches he can attack?

If Zunino can lift his average this year to around .235 to .240, one would have to qualify his season as successful.  I don’t care how many home runs he gets.  If this process works, he’ll hit 18-22 by default.  What I care about is productive at bats:  Moving the runner over, getting in the runner from third base and keeping innings alive.

If there is a message I could relay to Mike, it would be this:  All Seattle Mariner fans are pulling to you Mike.  And we hope that we continue to see you in a Mariner uniform for the rest of your career.

Seattle Mariners – Do Not Even Think About Trading Edwin Diaz.

Future Closer of Seattle Mairners
Future Closer of Seattle Mairners

Every time I see Edwin Diaz enter a game, I get the chills.  His stuff is absolutely electric and at 22 years of age, has the savvy poise of a seasoned veteran.

Since being called up from AA Ball, Diaz has appeared in 21 games, pitch 21.2 innings and struck out 44 batters.  That’s about an average of striking out 2 batters an inning.  He reminds me of Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee closer.  Not in style as Diaz has one all his own.  His fastball his in the 98 – 100 mph range and has thrown 101 mph.  Even  more devastating his slider which has become a very effective out pitch for him.

He reminds me of Rivera in the fact that he could tell a batter what pitch was coming, where it’s going to be placed and the batter still wouldn’t be able to hit it.

So here is a message to GM Jerry Dipoto:  Mark Edwin Diaz as untouchable…do not trade him even if Mike Trout is available.  Do not lose him to free agency and do not even think about changing his style.

Mariners have a history of letting players go that have gone on to have great success on other teams:  Adam Jones to Baltimore, Randy Johnson to Houston (who went on to win 2 Cy Young awards and a World Series ring with Arizona), Jason Varitek to Boston and, as much as I hate to say it, Alex Rodriguez to the Rangers then to the Yankees.

The Mariners have had some special players…Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and of course, the soon to be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. who in my opinion, is one of the best players to have ever played the game.

Felix Hernandez is also a special player and the Mariners owe it to him to keep Diaz in a Mariner uniform as I see him as the closer of the future.  And not just for a couple of seasons.  This kid has the stuff to be an elite closer for at least a decade.

Granted, he isn’t always going to be able to throw 100+ mph pitches…his awareness of that is evident of his developing a devastating slider now while he can hit 100+ fastballs.  At some point, I wouldn’t doubt that he develops a cutter like Rivera that would be just as knee-bending as his slider and mystifying as his fastball.

Dipoto talks about building for the future.  With current stars of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Felix, the Mariners have an exciting core group on the rise in players like Leonys Martin, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino and Ketel Marte.

Let’s peak into the future, say 2018, just as a pitching staff:

Starting rotation:  Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Nick Neidert, Luis Gohara.

Closer: Edwin Diaz

I don’t know how to address the rest of the bullpen since set-up pitchers and long-relievers are always in a state of flux.  But I do see the starting rotation being pretty close to that and Edwin Diaz, the Electric One, being the closer who could average 40-45 saves per season.

While this season may not shape up to what we hoped it would be, the future is in good hands.  And future leads will be protected by one Edwin Diaz.

 

 

Seattle Mariners – What Can We Expect This Time?

Mariners

This Friday, February 19th, 2016, kicks off the Seattle Mariners 2016 baseball season.

And while I appreciate all the changes new Mariner GM Jerry Dipoto has made since he took office in September, the most burning question I have is, just what can we expect from this team in 2016?

Dipoto says all the right things, that the Mariners foundation is excellent, build a team that has flexibility, balance and is sustainable and the team needs to add depth.  What else is he supposed to say, right?

But there is one thing I found different than any of the other GM’s that have sat in that chair for the Mariners.  He is taking a holistic view of the team and rather than try to have instant success via free agency, he is going to build from a farm system that is stocked with some very good talent.

We all can trace back to the failures the Mariners have tried in bringing up players who appeared to be ready but weren’t.  The most glaring example is that of Mike Zunino.

In college, while at Florida, Zunino was a career .320 hitter and averaged 58 RBI’s per season.  Had an excellent slugging percentage of .605 and an on base percentage of .383, excellent numbers for a catcher.  And no one could dispute his defensive skills.  When the Mariners drafted him 2013, I could see Zunino behind the dish full-time in 2015.

Zunino continued to excel in the minor leagues, moving quickly from A ball to AAA ball by 2013, just a year out of college.  And with the numbers he had in the minors, it wasn’t surprising he was called up at the end of the 2013 season.  Slugging percentage of .597, batting average of .313  and showed some power hitting 27 home runs and driving in 94 during his short time in the minors.

When he was slated as the starting catcher to start the 2014 season, I thought it was too soon.  But I got the feeling the Mariners were in panic mode and wanted him up.  And he was a major flop at the plate over the next two seasons.  Sure, he hit 22 home runs and drove in 60 in 2014, but his batting average was an anemic .199 and the on base percentage dropped to .294.  Add to that and he struck out 158 times, often in critical RBI situations.

2015 was even worse, hitting only .174, striking out 132 times with a mere .300 slugging percentage.  It was clear that Zunino had some major flaws in his swing that big league pitchers graphically exposed.  Interim GM Jeff Kingston mercifully shipped Zunino down to the minors and kept him there for the remainder of the season instead of calling him up in September.

Dipoto knew that a cultural change was needed.  And while I liked Lloyd McClendon as a manager, the writing was on the wall when Dipoto was hired in.  I like the hiring of Scott Servias, whom Dipoto worked with during his stint with the Angels.  And while Servias has never managed at any level, Dipoto hired some savvy veteran baseball men in Tim Bogar and Manny Acta.

There was an immediate need to change the culture, not just at the major league level, but through out the entire organization.  I think one of the reasons why Zunino flamed out was because he had connected with the coaching staffs at the minor league levels but not with Howard Johnson, who was the batting coach for the Mariners when Zunino was first called up.  And by the time Edgar Martinez could put some time in with him, Zunino was so screwed up that the best thing they could do was let him work it out in the minors.

Dipoto gathered all of the coaches from every level and wanted to get everyone on the same page, stressing what the big league club needed to succeed.  And to do that, the players coming up from the minors needed to have good on base percentage and low strike-out ratios.  The idea is to make opposing pitchers work, to stretch them out early and get to the opposing teams middle relievers as soon as they can.

The hitting coaches in particular needed to stress the same things at every level.  Dipoto and Edgar Martinez came up with a game plan that will start in A ball and have the same game plan all the way to AAA ball.  So when a player is called up, he will need to meet the same expectations as he did in the minors and the surprises will be minimal.

I suspect that was the issue with Zunino.  His expectations in the minors were vastly different than what was expected in the majors.  His whole hitting philosophy was changed by Howard Johnson when he got there and he had to think to much while at the plate, which caused indecisiveness, which caused hesitation, which caused him to strike out.

When a player, regardless of the sport, has to think too much, he’s toast.  As the great Crash Davis always said “Get out of your head” is always a great mantra to follow.

I agree with most of the predictions out there, that the Mariners will hit about 75 – 83 wins this year.  And while that might be a disappointment again, we need to give this management team a chance to impellent their plan because I believe this is a solid foundational plan that will make Seattle a baseball town again.  Not for just a couple of years, but for a couple of decades.

Looking forward to the season!

Edgar Martinez – A Case For The Hall of Fame

Edgar Martinez

I am a little ticked off at the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

For the sixth time, the BBWAA has failed to get one of the best hitters ever to play the game elected to where he belongs.

Apparently, there are two major issues that are working against Martinez:

1.  Martinez, for most of his 18 year career, served as the best designated hitter ever to play the game.  Never mind the fact that since 1972, the American League requires a player to be a designated hitter.  Martinez is being penalized due to a requirement of the rules.

2.  That the BBWAA is going to submit a player purely as a hitter, in a time where offense is seems to count for everything, that those hitting statistics should be stratospheric.  Martinez could always hit during his career but his defense is what held him back.  Edgar didn’t become the Mariners regular third baseman until he was 29 years old.  Perhaps Martinez should file an age discrimination suit against the BBWAA seems it appears they are holding that against him as well.

I went to Baseball Reference web site and got all of the statistics for the current Hall of Fame members.  I took out any non-players and pitchers and ended up with 171 players to compare Edgars stats with.  I am also going to use Frank Thomas and David Ortiz, 2 players who are recognized for DH accomplishments than there defensive prowess.

Average:  Edgar’s .312 batting average puts him 61st among the members of the Hall, tying him with Hughie Jennings, Johnny Mize, Joe Sewell and Deacon White.  At.312, he is just above Freddie Lindstrom, Jackie Robinson and Luke Appling.  Frank Thomas, who played more games as a DH than at first, got into the Hall with a .301 average is ranked 83rd.  David Ortiz, also a player with more at-bats at DH comes in at .283 which would put him 120th in ranking.

On Base Percentage:  Frank Thomas, at .419 edged Edgar by .001 and is 14th among HOF players with Edgar right behind him at 15 coming in at .418.  Ortiz comes in at 75 with .377 OPB.

Slugging Percentage:  Edgar is in the top 30 among Hall of Fame Players at 28 with a .515, tied with the great Willie McCovey and just ahead of Ty Cobb, Eddie Matthews and Harmon Killebrew.  David Ortiz comes in at 17 with a .543 and Frank Thomas in at 12th with .555 slugging percentage.  Very comparable stats.

Hits:  Edgar’s 2,247 hits puts him 92nd among the Hall of Fame players, in the company of Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Joe Medwick and Willie Stargell.  He ranks 2nd among Frank Thomas (65th with 2,468 hits) and David Ortiz comes in at 93 with 2,241 hits though by the time Ortiz quits playing, he will have added more to that total.

Doubles:  A staple of Edgar’s hitting prowess, he comes in at 31 among Hall of Fame players, ahead of Ricky Henderson, Babe Ruth, Tony Perez and Roberto Alomar.  He is second to David Ortiz who is 17th with 564 doubles.  Frank Thomas?  At number 40 among HOF players, Thomas hit 495 doubles.

Home Runs:  With 309 career home runs, Edgar is ranked at 41 in the Hall, keeping company with Hank Greenberg, Gary Carter, George Brett and Rogers Hornsby.  David Ortiz is currently ranked 18th with 486 home runs and Frank Thomas is at number 11 with 521.

I could go on and on but the fact of the matter is Edgar Martinez deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  One more stat (and this is my own) that I can throw out there.  I did an average of all the statistical information available and assigned and Edgar scored 1,097 ranking him 96th among Hall of Fame Players.  Better than 77 players currently in the Hall of Fame.

And what of the American League naming the Designated Hitter Award after he won the damn thing five times?  That’s right, the winner for being the best designated hitter in the American League gets the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award.

Among his other awards:

  • Five time winner of the Silver Slugger Award
  • Three American League OPB awards
  • Two American League Batting Titles
  • Named seven times as an American League All Star

He is one of only eight players to have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, career batting average above .300, a career OBP above .400 and a career slugging percentage above .500.  Five of those eight players are in the Hall of Fame.

Edgar had a seven year stretch of dominating offensive play.  During that time:

  • Batted at least .325
  • OBP of at least .440
  • Slugging percentage of at least .570
  • Hit at least 250 doubles
  • Played in 1,000 games

Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, both in the Hall, are the only players to match that level of offensive output.

He is also on of six players to hit at least .320 for six straight seasons.  The others are Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn and Todd Helton (Not in the Hall).

Not sure what Edgar needed to do besides get to the major league level sooner than 29 and play a position.  But the Hall of Fame requirements appears to look at offensive numbers more than anything to get in.  Really, the only player that was elected because of his glove was Ozzie Smith.  I know, Brooks Robinson was a vacuum cleaner at 3rd base and Willie Mays was the best centerfielder to ever live.  But look at Reggie Jackson…he was never known for his defense but those deficiencies were overlooked because he could hit for power and do so in some very clutch situations.  Ted Williams hated to play defense…all he wanted to do was hit.  Would have been the perfect DH if he could have played when it was a rule.

It appears to me that the BBWAA will overlook defensive deficiencies if a player had outstanding numbers.  Edgar has those numbers and yet they toss in that because he didn’t play defense, the numbers he has are a little inflated.

BBWAA, you can’t have it both ways.  Do the right thing and elect Edgar into the Hall of Fame.  You couldn’t have a better person representing baseball.

 

 

 

Seattle Mariners – Smart Move Bringing Edgar In As Hitting Coach

Edgar Martinez

First, let me say that the Seattle Mariners screwed up my idea for an article to bring Edgar Martinez in as a hitting coach.

Reason why I am so late in writing this article is because I needed to check my home, my car and all of my clothes for any listening devices or hidden cameras because surely someone is tapping me for all the great ideas I have!

All kidding aside, I really did have an article in mind about having Edgar come in as a hitting coach.  My wife and I went to the game Friday night between the Mariners and Astros and as we were watching the game, witnessing some of the futility the Mariners have at the plate is just painful.

Granted, they did win the game…but the margin of victory should have been much greater than the final score of 5-2.  Especially when, in the first inning, they had the bases loaded with no outs and can only manage to score 2 runs.   And even those were gifts by the Astros…Logan Morrison hit a pop-fly to left that should have been caught to start the game and Nelson Cruz drew a bases loaded walk to drive in the first.

After Kyle Seager struck out on 3 straight pitches, Mark Trumbo grounded out to the right side to drive in the second…Seth Smith struck out with men on second and third for the second out and Brad Miller flew out to the end the inning, perhaps the hardest hit ball of the inning.

But what really got me thinking about Edgar as the hitting coach was watching the futility of Mike Zunino.  If it wasn’t for his outstanding defensive abilities, Zunino would be toiling somewhere in Double-A ball.

Zunino, who’s averaged dropped to .160 after yet another 0-4 night, was pitiful with 3 strike-outs.  And what’s frustrating is you can see he has the tools to be at least a .240 to .260 hitter.  He also has enough power to hit at least 18-22 home runs a year and the capability to drive in 70-80 runs a year.

But right now, he is a black hole at the bottom of the Mariners line-up.  That’s not to say that Zunino is the problem to all of the Mariner offensive woes…our highest paid player, Robinson Cano, prior to this year, was a perennial .300+ hitter with some good pop in his bat.

Prior to this year, Cano had a .310 career batting average along with averaging 184 hits, 90 RBI, 22 home runs and an OPB of .357.  This year, he is woefully below all of those averages and yet McClendon still has him in the three hole hoping he will battle his way out of it.

And let’s not even get into the mental errors he’s had on the base paths.   I can remember at least 3 times he’s been picked-off or caught in a rundown that has ended an inning that could have been big.

Will the hiring of Edgar Martinez fix any of the Mariner woes?  Perhaps not right away…but I was encouraged by the fact that Edgar didn’t waste anytime yesterday getting with Zunino to work with him.  I don’t expect immediate results but I’m guessing if Zunino really pays attention, we’ll see his average start to rise by the end of the year.

But in the end, hiring Edgar isn’t going to resolve the hitting woes…unless the hitters put in the work.  Edgar isn’t the one batting anymore but I would dare say that even at 52, he could still hit for better average than any of the current Mariners.

Welcome back Papi!