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An inside look at the Mariners’ remarkable turnaround in the minors

General manager Jerry Dipoto has implemented new processes in the Mariners' minor-league system. (AP)

ARLINGTON – A remarkable turnaround has occurred in the Mariners’ minor league organizations.

A year ago, the team’s affiliates finished 29th in overall organizational standings – based on the combined records of the team’s domestic minor-league affiliates. As of Monday, the 2016 team’s sit in second, with a chance to finish first. General manager Jerry Dipoto and director of player development Andy McKay believe that learning to win and winning at the minor league level is important, and we are seeing that. Or, rather, we are seeing that in the standings.

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How the near-worst to near-first turnaround has occurred is interesting. Coaches are setting hitting and pitching philosophies. Achievements are being acknowledged. Skills are being tracked and a style of play is being encouraged. You have heard about “C the Z” (Control the Zone), well, there is also “PTPA” – a.k.a productive team plate appearances – that are being tracked in a tournament bracket with individuals squaring off against each other to see who best contributes in the category. These are all things I’ve learned from people inside the organization over the last couple of weeks. During the postgame show Saturday in Chicago, I invited Double-A Jackson play-by-play announcer Brandon Liebhaber to give us a better picture of what all of this looks like. Check out the podcast here.

The conversation starts with Liebhaber’s reaction to reliever Dan Altavilla’s call up from Jackson straight to the big league earlier in the day. Liebhaber also discusses what he’s seen on a day-to-day basis in the style of play that is being coached, the difference between developing individual talent versus developing team players, “C to Z,” “PTPA” and, finally, a look at outfielder Tyler O’Neill’s year. Liebhaber does a great job of painting a picture of what these minor-league philosophies look like in practice. It’s a quick look, and I hope to do more with this down the road.

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