Offensive Creation - Unlucky or Incompetent?
Which one does Jack claim?
From the inestimable DaddyO:'s beginning to look like this team is exactly what we expected, a .500-plus-a-few-games team. It could have been so much more with the pickup of one solid bat over the offseason and a couple at the trade deadline. We all instinctively knew it at the time; either Jack just failed to execute, again, or he was, again, just unlucky. People will pick which one based on their view of Jack. I know which one I pick.
Look, let's say this right now:  The Mariners are looking like the first team out of the playoffs, with our chance of making the dance falling to 20%.  We can still go 10-3 or some-such, see if we can pull out a minor miracle, but nobody else looks like they're gonna help us.  We'll have to go on a winning streak instead of counting on some more losing from Detroit or Oakland.  They've righted the ship just in time.
That said: before the season, was an 87-ish win team about what we thought we could be? WITH solid contributions from 1B and DH that we didn't get?  This is definitely gonna be a could-have-been sort of season if we wind up there, but that's WORLDS better than where we've been.  The big question, though: what went wrong with the offense, and Why Oh Why can't we fix it?
Because the "big problem" with the offense is with the big guys.  Where is our corner power?
Justin Smoak: 271 PAs, .201/ .273/ .340/ .613, 76 OPS+
Kendrys Morales: 188 PAs, .205/ .266/ .345/ .611, 75 OPS+
Corey Hart: 246 PAs, .197/ .268/ .314/ .582, 67 OPS+
Chris Denorfia: 73 PAs, .209/ .260/ .313/ .574, 65 OPS+
Stefen Romero: 188 PAs, .194/ .237/ .303/ .539, 54 OPS+
That's almost a thousand plate appearances from guys who are SUPPOSED to hit.  Whose JOB it is to hit. A bitterly-struggling SS (Brad Miller and his 84 OPS+) and a 120-games catcher with just 16 walks and a batting average under the Mendoza Line (Zunino's 83 OPS+) outhit all of em.
When Zunino is a .240/.300/.450 catcher it won't matter as much.  This year it mattered a lot.  Injuries decimated the corner positions... but since we added injury prone players that's kind of to be expected.  Jack's best offensive addition not named Cano was the guy I actually wanted us to get: Logan Morrison.
LoMo's amazing line? .247/ .300/ .384/ .683, 95 OPS+.  He was better than Zunino and Miller... but still just 90% of what you'd expect from a league-average first baseman (his RF and DH numbers are abominable in the few games he got at each, as might be expected).
The good news? Logan has 2 more years of club control.  The bad news? His line this year is exactly what it's been the last 2 years.  His rookie and sophomore version seems to have evaporated unless he gets into a smaller park.  Or to put it another way: Logan seems to have Smoak Disease. How many Smoaks can this team use? (answer: none, unless it's as a backup)
The Mariners have the same problem they've had since Jack took over:  No corner thumpers.  One brilliant Branyan season aside, a 40+ Raul Ibanez is the best we've done.  It wouldn't be so annoying if we didn't keep coming up with the same luck.  Morse with us? Terrible (thanks in part to a misdiagnosed broken wrist... good job Ms docs).  Morse before he got here and after?  Terrific (132 OPS+ this year in SF).  If we'd re-signed Morse instead of adding Hart, we'd be in the playoffs.  
Adding Kendrys at the trade deadline?  Perfectly reasonable.  Didn't cost us much in prospect value, he hit here last year so we know he can... except he spent the first half of the season smoking cigars and eating Ho-Hos, and is essentially worthless.  Good job, Boras.  If we'd gotten last year's Kendrys instead of this year's, we'd be in the playoffs.
Should we place bets on whether Corey Hart is gonna post a .780+ OPS next year?  Why wouldn't he?  Jack is ALWAYS a year off in his additions (except Cano, thankfully).  Part of that is probably budget, leaving Jack to select from modest players, or better players with injury concerns.  But he keeps rolling snake eyes when it comes to picking a heavy hitter to rent for a season.
Don't look now, but Rendon is a 6 WAR, .825 OPS infield hitter for the Nats.  The ONE time we decide to take injury risk into account for hitters and draft a pitcher, we take the arm that blows up and the injury-prone bat is excelling and healthy.  If we'd drafted Rendon, we'd be in the playoffs (even playing him out of position at first).
Jack has a lot of trouble getting this right.  Maybe DJ Peterson is the answer, or Kivlehan.  He could have traded them for a bigger bat this offseason but is sticking with his drafting acumen - even though Seager and now maybe Ackley are the only ones who have been able to be plus hitters.  Ackley's bone spurs are also a concern in the OF - we gonna have to move him back to his college position of first base?  Saunders can hit, when he's healthy.  If we keep him, he'll probably stay injury-prone.  If we trade him, he'll hit like Jayson Werth for 155 games a year.
How many snake-eyes can a team roll with talented players before it's a management problem and not a player one?
Regardless, we have to add another MOTO hitter.  Ackley and Saunders can hit in other spots in the lineup, but we need right-handed power (or a lefty without big splits).  And as MtGrizzly says:
...The market for FA hitters is going to be pretty bleak. Do you spend big $$$ to lure Victor to Seattle through his age 40 season? Take a shot at Melky? Ugh..
We're right there competitively.  We have bullpen arms for days, Hultzen is trying to work his way back into the conversation, and a rotation of Felix / Kuma / Paxton / Elias / Walker should keep you in most games.  And that's assuming we don't go add another arm this offseason.  I hope we'll sign Seager to an extension, but we should still have plenty of cash to make some things happen.  Are those things trades or FA signings?  Like Grizz said, the field is pretty bleak for FAs.  Maybe Yasmani Tomas, if we can pay him to show up (If we'd added Jose Abreu, we'd... ah, you know).
Jack has held fast on keeping his prospects, for better or worse.  We can't fit all the arms in the pen.  If we sign a pitcher, then we can't fit all the arms in the rotation either.  Regardless of how this year winds up, next year we're counting on Jack to do what he has been astonishingly and pitifully unable to do: add a baseball player who can hit for less than a quarter of a billion dollars.
Or we wait - again - for the kids to come through.  This is the year that Miller explodes.  That Ackley posts that .800+ OPS for the whole year, not just the second half.  Thank Peterson or Kivlehan lands with a splash that DOESN'T GO AWAY.  That Saunders is healthy. Etc, etc, etc.
Requiring your players to be at max output for success is not a good plan.  We need flex.  It's gonna be a long offseason for Jack Doubters, because the fate of the 2015 team is Out There Somewhere, an addition required to take the offense from "barely acceptable" to "contender."  Otherwise we're waiting for 2016, which I think is a foolish squandering of yet another likely Cy Felix season but still looks like the timeline to me without the right offensive addition.
I believe in a lot of the kids on the team and in the minors.  I don't believe the minors can help us in 2015, certainly not the first half.  And we've learned that the Ms tend to have slow learners at the big-league level.  
The good news?  Jack doesn't have to convince a FA to come here, because there isn't a top-flight one worth having really (Tomas aside).
The bad news?  We'll need to trade kids for an upgrade, and we have no basis for believing we can do that succcessfully.
I've enjoyed this season greatly, and I'll watch to the probably-bitter end.  It's a building season with a new manager and kids who had never been under playoff pressure before - the King included.  I'm thankful for meaningful September games on a young and growing team for the first time in... forever.  We can take this and use it as a launch point for a contender into the next decade. 
But will we?  Are we unlucky, or incompetent?  Fingers crossed for our luck to change in the coming season, because right now we're so close I can taste it...
Tastes pretty sweet - but I wanna eat that victory cake, not smell it.



Question for Jack and the M's: How do you sign a 30-year old $240 million player to match with your in-his-prime ace and then settle for embarking on a 3-year plan of gradual improvement that banks on realizing the potential of unproven young players and squanders the best years of your Dynamic Duo?
Point re: Young Talent: The Angels, who put FAR less emphasis on drafting and player development, CONTINUE to produce young talent that outpaces ours (wouldn't we LOVE to have a young outfielder step in like Kole Calhoun and OPS .800 over the first 700 plate appearances of his regular use?).
My Only Quibble: Just a thought. You should probably reserve the use of the term "inestimable" for peoples' whose work is, well...inestimable. Me, I just ask questions and point things out that occur to me. I'm the thinking man's hack.
Come to think of it, "inestimable" is probably not yet applicable to our extended GM (which, of course, you did not do).
Ackley: I'm still not convinced he's "turned the corner" until he demonstrates he can do so for a full season. Trend analysis and scouting prognosis aside, there's any number of players who have hot periods of 2-3 months but never put it together for a full season of production. To me, as Jack's sixth season draws to a close, out of all his prospect efforts Seager remains the sole proven player who can be reasonably counted on to hold down a position and produce over a full season. One thing I will say, though, is that going into this season I had contended that Seager had not yet proven he was a great as some people seemed to imply. This year, he sold me big time. Oh to have a RH bat that can anchor the spot between him and Cano.


Pretty much agree with it all, but you say it better. Are you saying keep Hart around? I would, as a flyer - Branyan-like. As a fan, I went to three games this season. We lost all three and never scored more than one run. I'm rather bored, as Lennon reportedly says at the end of Strawberry Fields. Hope there's a Penny Lane to follow. :-)


This year wasn't wasted, but we could have deployed real resources and made it better.
Next year... Let's plan on winning the division, shall we?  Trying to squeak into the 2nd wildcard is a fallback in case of disaster, not the best the roster should be capable of.
I hate watching Matt Carpenter in St. Louis, btw, since I wanted to trade for him when he was meandering along in the Cards' system.  There are players out there who can step up and contribute.  Seager was one.  He wasn't GREAT to start with, but he was a player, and every year since he's come into his own.
I'm hoping Kivlehan is one of those.  I'm also hoping we don't trade Kivlehan for one year of a beat-up, injury-prone hitter.  Of course, maybe we trade him in a package for 2 years of someone like Encarnacion. Not likely (Edwin is amazingly productive and incredibly cheap at 10 mil per for the next 2 years) but Jack needs somebody, and we have the prospects to make a credible offer for almost anyone.
Just needs to be the right someone. Can't waste any more of the Felix Years, and Cano's not getting any younger.


If my math is right, 2014 was Smoak's last option year. That means that he can't be optioned next year without a DFA.  Look for Smoak to be traded for a bucket of balls this winter.  LoMo has clearly beat him out for his spot.  So Grizz's question is this: Do you shoot for V-Mart, or try for a rebound project, or stay in house for 1B-DH?
It seems like the front office has been 0fer a million on these one year rebound players that try to make it in the Safe. Safeco just isn't the sort of environment for a rebounding hitter to come in for a soft landing. The Mariners should stick to stars, or fungible scrubs on this one.
The RickRoll looks pretty good:
1. Smoak,
2. Montero,
3. Choi
4. Kivlehan
5. Deej
Smoak is burnt toast, Montero needs a change of scenery.  The young guys are golden, but MLB 1B/DH is a bit much to saddle a youngster with.  With Choi, notice that his suspension was in April 2014, and he came back in June after being demoted to AA and immediately got two hits.  Then, he lasted only four games in AA before being reinstated in the PCL, and put together a .774 OPS season for the Rainiers.
The problem with Choi is that he hits lefty, and he's probably not better than LoMo.  If he were right handed, he could slot in as an ideal platoon partner.  
The other candidates are probably too young to consider.  Kiv and Deej need a little while in the high minors before being relied on as MOTO guys.  
So, we have V-Mart for the annual gross domestic product of the Marshall Islands or thereabouts, and Country Breakfast.  Butler is a career .913 hitter versus lefties and he was .849 OPS v. left in 2014.  We could use some of that.  
What about Butler's .690 OPS?  Well, it may make the budget Royals decline his 2015 12.5 million team option.  If he was killing it, he wouldn't even be available.  
Other ideas?  Maybe the Angels would trade us Albert Pujols or something.


Of course we've got the whole winter to ponder this, but going in we should at least agree there is no simple and obvious solution.
If the goal is a 'proven' bat to hit between Cano and Seager...who's right handed...and can play first base--well, good luck. In the unlikely situation that somehow all of Abreu, Goldschmidt, Encarnacion and Miggy are not going to be made available--at any price--what's left? Mojician hit it right on the head with his list: find the money and persuasion for Victor...or take your chances on Butler (if available) or Napoli or Morse. I'm guessing that neither of these last two guys makes anyone all warm and fuzzy inside.
Otherwise, Trumbo? Convince Hanley to play first and pay him the world? Try to find out if Willingham can build on his three games of MLB experience at first, at age 36?
I understand DH also plays into the calculation. But the reason that we're desperately looking for proven that everyone else is, too.


Kivlehan and Deej are on very fast tracks if it is me in the front office.
One of those guys needs to contribute for us next year. 
And like Daddy, I'm not yet full in on Ackley as a real-deal hitter. 
He gets LF to start next year, and he's better than two years ago, but he's not put anything together for a full season.....and he's fragile, hitting-wise, to say the least.


You can't really plan on hitters jumping from AA and high A ball and making any real offensive contribution. If they force their way into the picture, great. But you can't base your off season on it.

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