Condor About to Take Flight?
Place yer bets, genn'lmen


Q.  Will Saunders become a superstar?

A.  Every blog and every reader is going to do exactly the same thing here.  Turn on the TV and watch Saunders in 2013 and find out.

Our March vote as to whether he's an impending MVP candidate or not, it's not going to change reality.  We'll watch and see. 


Q.  What's more impressive?  Saunders' Sept. 2012, or his March 2013, or Ernie Whitt calling him a superstar? Or do none of these matter?

A.  Dr. D is intrigued as follows:

  • Only slightly intrigued by Saunders' Sept. 2012.  
  • Not intrigued by the March 2013 in a vacuum.
  • Moderately intrigued by the fact that Saunders' Sept. 2012 hot roll -- > transitioned through the snow and sleet and re-emerged, unscathed, when the sun came out.
  • Very intrigued by the reactions of the players and managers to Saunders this past week.


Q.  Why slightly intrigued by Sept. 2012?

A.  Baseball is all about the strike zone.  Here were his EYE ratios in the second half of 2012:

  • July:  5:23 
  • Aug:  3:18
  • Sept:  11:23

In other words, his EYE ratio was around 0.20 through the summer -- barely survival mode.  Then it snapped way up to 0.50, which represents a very, very different hitter, one who is comfortable managing his plate appearances from back to front.

He had 11 XBH in 22 September games, a pace for 40 doubles/triples and 40 homers.  That wouldn't mean much if Michael Saunders didn't have the physical capability to actually hit 40 doubles and 40 homers in one season.

John Benson pointed out the roto value of isolating on 2H stats.  "That's who the player was when we last saw him."  Granted, we're reducing this to September.  But keep in perspective:  when we last saw Michael Saunders in 2012, he did in fact look like Darryl Strawberry.

We get so zealous about the caveat emptors -- "Hey that doesn't necessarily mean X" -- we wind up brushing off the other side of it.  Hey, maybe the light DID come on for Saunders at the end of 2013.


Q.  MIGHT the light have come on for Saunders at the end of 2013?

A.  It would be consistent with his training methods up to that point.  He reinvented his swing at the start of the 2012, spent five months working it, and then seemed to jell.

This isn't coming out of a vacuum.  Saunders is a player the Seattle Mariners invested wayyyyyy too much time in, precisely because they were trying to tap a huge upside, a Darryl Strawberry playing CF.

Then in early 2012 he looked like maybe he was getting it.  SSI, uniquely, documented the radical changes in Saunders' swing, the extension of his ki (via his knee and front hip) back through the pitcher's mound.  

Then in late 2012 he got the results.


Q.  Sometimes a player emerges in ST?

A.  Every once in a long while.  Bret Boone reported to camp in 2001 looking like .350 standing still.

In 2010, Jose Bautista slugged .400.  He showed up in ST 2011, batted .400 (21-for-60) and slugged .700. That year he slugged over .600.

We all know about Saunders' freakishly long levers, his long arms, the fact that he runs like a deer.  He is a weirdly talented physical specimen even in comparison to other MLB athletes.


Q.  What are the odds?

A.  I'm looking at a 30%, 40% chance that Saunders becomes an All-Star level player in 2013.  Maybe a good 20% chance that he does some sort of Bautista thing.  

He'd be way up my roto list -- I wouldn't draft him in my top 10 AL outfielders, but I'd like to steal him at like #15 in the AL.

I'd like to hear your odds.  ... They ain't short, I'll tell you that.  Michael Saunders is a dangerous player for 2013.


Q.  What's the thing about Ernie Whitt and the accusations of becoming a superstar?

A.  Having done sabermetrics for 30 years and then baseball VP for 10, James remarked that baseball people go to spring training to watch players' confidence levels.


Lemme see if I can info-tain this one in a suitably offbeat way...

Look.  You go to the Tacoma YMCA and get in a 4-on-4 hoops game.  One brother fakes you left, drives right, and scores.  Fine.  You step up on a DIFFERENT brother, very next play, he smiles a little and blows by you on the right and scores.

There's a difference.  The second guy knew he could beat you before he put the ball on the floor.  Then he did it.  I don't know how you sabermetrically measure this.

Saunders is drawing comments to the effect, "We knew he was going to go 8-for-11 while he was standing in the box."  Hey yes, Dr. D is intrigued by the other players' swooning over Michael Saunders.





I'm optomistic. He reworked his swing last off season, then spent a year fighting himself. The new swing was on and off in 2012, getting too long and too greedy for stretches. Now, he's had another off season with the bands and the noodles. That swing should be much more consistant now, as it's been worked into his muscle memory.
Strawberry might be aiming too high - his peak was among the elite of the elite - but a LH Jayson Werth is one heck of a player.


Mariners come out of the Spring Training gate hitting HRs and winning.
Saunders, Perez, and Liddi go to WBC
Mariners winning? - not so much.
They're baa-aack! (don't think it was Perez)
What happens in the next few days will be an interesting experiment in the chemistry of confidence - is it contagious?
I'd say the odds are better than even that the Ms young hitters - Ackley, Smoak, Montero, Seager, and Saunders and maybe Liddi and Romero - start looking formidable, with Seager and Saunders leading the way.
I'd also say the odds are good -- ~30-40% -- one or more are all-stars this year.
Isn't it delightful?
Now can we send Noesi to minor league camp, already?


We can argue about 30% vs 50% vs 70%.
Fact remains that it is going to be fun fun FUN to check this team out in April :- )


He's an easy guy to root for in that he displays both intensity game in game out, and humility in his interviews, always ready to hand the credit to everyone else on the team that might deserve it. Here, for instance, if an interview where he mentions he would have been happy to have not hit like a monster and instead have his team advance.
And I'm a big believer in him maturing into not just an All Star, but a perennial MVP candidate.


Is an All-Star level player one who makes the AS game? One who has similar #'s to some random All-Star? Makes a difference in Saunders' chances, doesn't it?
Listen, he leaped a level last year....before September. He went from zilch/nada/nothing/DOA to a real player, exciting, too.
So was September an achievement driven by a relatively small sample....or another huge leap?
Probably somewhere in-between, I think. Unless you think Saunders' September numbers represent a huge leap forward ....and Smoaks' do, too, you have to settle for "improvement and small sample."
But an improved Saunders over the rest of the year is a heck of a player. Before he went all loopy and then reiinvented himself, I thought he was a 20-25 homer/.250 hitter. There's value there. If he's 10% improved, he's now going to rack up impressive #'s.
That's where I think he is...and may settle. But 25HR/.250/ and 35 doubles gets close to 120 OPS+. Gimme a 120 OPS+ and I'll be a happy Moe.
30/.270/40? I'll buy the first round if that is the case. You bat that guy 3rd, BTW.


1)  On the road last season, Michael Saunders ran a .262/.324/.469 batting line
2)  Michael Saunders had a .297 BABiP, which may seem like a reasonable level, but remember that Michael Saunders is fast, and a good bunter (removing the 5/10 on bunts takes his BABiP to .290 on swung-at hits), and finally, Michael Saunders Minor League Career BABiP, with his old bad swing, was .349.
3)  Michael Saunders was the team leader in "OaDTWHBHiNSF" (Outs and Doubles That Would Have Been Homers in New Safeco Field) with 6-9 (Depending on how accurate Fox Sports is).
4)  Michael Saunders just completed his 1st full season and this year he will be "26 with experience".  He won't be feeling the pressure of being THE big bat in the line up with the additions of Morse and Morales (and hopefully the emergence of some other guys), which was a real issue that Saunders admitted to at least once (after striking out in the 9th in Philip Humber's perfect game, Saunders said he swung at ball 4 since he was disinterested in walking in that situation).
So, let's say Michael Saunders is more comfortable in his new swing and doesn't feel the pressure of being the big bat in the lineup, and that his BABiP should probably rise by around 18 points, and assume that he looks a lot better in the home park...well, here's Michael Saunders batting line with 20 BABiP points worth of singles and 6 extra homers instead of outs.
.268/.325/.489, and that's before any decline in K's or increase in BB's that might come from being more comfortable in his swing and more feared by pitchers,  so that's my low end projection for Michael Saunders for next season.


One of questions I have when looking at micro-splits (monthly slices of performance) for a player is how "believable" is a given monthly slice of the player pie.
Eye ratios can swing wildly from month-to-month, so I wouldn't "knee-jerk" read too much into a single month sample (good or bad) UNLESS I have something else to fall back on to support the concept of real versus transient.
With Saunders, the "tell" is his minor league numbers. It is common for transitional players to suffer from transient spikes in K rates. Some guys never adjust and wash out. Others take their lumps for awhile, then adjust. In my experience, most of the ones who succeed eventually revert to something close to whatever their minor league eye ratios were.
This is good news for Saunders. For his minors CAREER - the 267/545 split is right at that 2:1 K:BB late last season. But, even better, in 2011, in 64 games (a 2-month sample), he went 50/71. The re-tool of a lifetime swing ain't easy. So, friction is to be expected.
In this case, I'm inclined to believe that the odds are VERY high that the late season eye ratio is repeatable and sustainable with outside shot at - IMPROVABLE!
Just to add full disclosure, if you ask me about Peguero my numerical assessment is he is a long shot bordering on pipe dream. The eye-hole is simply too deep. But Saunders "willingness" to accept the 50/71 AAA eye ratio, (even though his power suffered during that stretch), is the tell for me that he CAN alter his aggression dial enough to eventually find the sweet spot. It is my belief that very few players are capable of 'significantly' altering their plate aggression. Saunders appears to have that mental flexibility that gives him an upside of getting there.
It took him much longer to find a coach (or gain the maturity) that could unlock that potential to adapt that I saw in Carp early on. But, I am inclined to go with Doc's assessment on this one. Saunders may very well be the guy most likely to make a leap to a .900 OPS ... which is quite impressive when you consider he's got Ackley, Smoak, Montero and Seager to compete with. A year ago, I would've probably pegged Saunders as a high risk for flash-in-the-pandom. Not any more.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.