How close are we to answers?
By Shannon Drayer
I had to not only take a deep breath but get a good night’s sleep before I attempted this post. Actually, I attempted this post on the plane well past midnight but a headache that may or may not have come from watching the game derailed that plan. I’ll try again. Here goes.
Okay. Wednesday night’s game was terrible. A clunker, I think I called it on the postgame show. You know what? They happen. I got a good chuckle out of some of you who tweeted me during the game in a panic and once again were done with the team only to acknowledge that yeah, you were perhaps a little emotional about one game.
I’ve talked about it before but this year is particularly rough because of the roller coaster and the let down when you see a good amount of good, feel like perhaps that corner has been turned, then crash back down to earth. It’s exhausting, but it’s part of the deal. This is what this year is about and Jack Zduriencik warned us and re-emphasized the point at the trade deadline that there would be ups and downs. There certainly has been and Wednesday night was a down, I think in large part because you have got a bunch of new faces in there due to injury and trade. The question, however, is what is the end game here?
This year is about evaluating the youth, finding out what the Mariners have. While I don’t think it would be fair to definitively say what they have with a month and a half of the season remaining, I think we are getting a good idea.
There is some good, there is some alarming and there are some question marks. All of this to be expected. If you were of the thought that you could run a bunch of kids out on the field, give them a year’s experience and, voila, have a major league baseball team, it just doesn’t happen that way. Some of the guys will sink, some will swim, some will need more time, maybe not at the major league level. I think Zduriencik and crew knew this. I don’t believe they thought that after a year they would have an all star or maybe even a big leaguer at every position. They should know what they have, however, and will make moves this winter accordingly.
In his first full major-league season, Kyle Seager leads the Mariners with 68 RBIs. (AP)
So where are we right now, with 49 games remaining? We will tackle the good today then get to the alarming and question marks in the next few days. The pitching we will handle separately.
I had hoped that we would see a breakout star from this group. Probably not on the level of a Mike Trout but perhaps a little more than what we have seen from this group. A go-to-guy, a guy who proved to be a consistent threat in the lineup. The closest we have to that – and perhaps he could get there eventually – is Kyle Seager.
Zduriencik has a saying that he has dropped in several interviews over the last two years that all he is asking for is for guys to be what they are supposed to be. To play to their abilities. Seager surpassed what many thought his abilities were or perhaps realized them sooner than most thought he would. Assuming that he can build off his first year, he is well on his way.
The RBI total is what puts him on top of this list. What is encouraging is that he has upped his on-base percentage. Remember the guy who walked just three times in the first month and a half of the season? He’s walked 33 times since. He doesn’t strike out much and he finally had a good homestand a week ago. He has done some good things and he continues to progress. I think you can feel good about him going forward.
Michael Saunders, I think, falls into this category as well, again assuming that he will take another step forward after taking a monster step this year. It should be noted that he did this on his own. He took what was a floundering career into his own hands and changed everything in the offseason with the help of a hitting coach. I think he will most likely do more this offseason. He is slumping now and it will be interesting to see how he finishes but we could be just scratching the surface with him. Or he could be a fourth outfielder. It’s up to him, but we have learned a lot about Saunders and there is a lot of determination and a lot of good to go along with all the tools he possesses.
John Jaso. Mr Clutch. I am tempted to put him in to the question mark category because I am not sure if he is what we are seeing now – which is good – or if he could possibly be more. Eric Wedge is making it a point to get him behind the plate more to see how much he can catch every day. It will be interesting to see if he tries to get him in more against lefties and see if he has made any progress in that area. One thing that I want to point out with Jaso and Jesus Montero, who is going to be in the question mark-plus category for me, is that these are the two players that have been handled the most carefully. These two have consistently been put in position to succeed with Wedge keeping Jaso away from lefties for the most part and Montero away from the righties. I don’t think it is any coincidence that they are having some of the best success at the plate right now.
Last but not least and perhaps somewhat surprising on the good list is Brendan Ryan. He has shown he can indeed hit over the last two months and his defense has been invaluable to this team. He is certainly not on the alarming list and there is no question in my mind I want him at shortstop next year. His defense makes the entire infield defense better and if you can’t see that then you haven’t been watching the last three days. This team has turned one double play since he was injured. He helps Dustin Ackley, he helps his pitcher, he helps Seager. I think we have seen what a little offense from him means to this team and you hope that he has learned something from the horrific slump he had earlier this year that will help him in the future when things start going in that direction again.
That’s it for the good. We will tackle the question marks Friday.