POTD: Michael Saunders, July 2010 (1)

Q.  How hot is he?

A.  He's not, actually.  From the middle of June, through Tuesday night, he'd been hitting .156 with a 1:9 EYE. 

(By the way, did you get a load of b-ref.com's new SUM function?  Click on any two rows of a player's gamelog and it will calculate the period's stats for you.)

However, we do note that the Mariners' current hot streak -- 6 in a row, then 9-of-12 -- coincided exactly with Saunders being put into the starting lineup.


Q.  What's the excitement?

A.  Saunders is showing 35-homer power.  Not 25-homer power; 35-homer power.  Not flashes of power; sustained, applied power.

And he's doing it on the pitches that used to fricasee him to a crackly crunch:  fastballs way in, and offspeed down low.  Wednesday's two homers came on:

  • An 83 pitch low, which used to be underneath his swing when his snaketongue, hi-lo-hi-looping bat got too far in front, and
  • A 92 fastball right on the black and at the knees

The imperturbable Mike Blowers was virtually frantic.  "And he was really putting on a show in batting practice today," Blow said.  "Shows you the confidence he has in his swing right now."


We will guarantee you that the real pro's, the people working with Saunders, are beside themselves.


Q.  Has SSI figured out his swing yet?

A.  We finally figured out what is so weird about his swing:  he does the Thome Topple but with real long arms.  LOL.  The weird finish adds to the vertigo effect on the analyst, but that was just a distraction.

Jim Thome, of course, as the pitch came in, he moved his head into the pitch to get a better look at it, exactly as Milton Bradley does.  For Thome this means bending over at the waist as he swings.  For Bradley it usually means sinking his knees and leaning his head forward.

For Saunders it means radically bending over.  Of course for Thome and Bradley this means they have to awkwardly catch their weight as they step on the plate.


Q.  How does a hitter with long arms cover an up-and-in pitch if he bends at the waist?

A.  He throws his caboose back into the dugout, as illustrated above in the "Origami" swing.  Tell me that's not hilarious.


Q.  What's with the stiff right arm on followthrough?

A.  Saunders has always contorted his shoulder weirdly because he long-arms the followthrough high.  Doesn't matter any more if he's going to launch the bat through on a consistent loop.

The extended arm does mean a bigger loop and more throughspeed.  ARod has an Andy Warhol type stylization of this wide loop at ARod.com, he's so proud of it.


Q.  Is he pulling the ball any less?

A.  Michael Saunders may have a quicker bat even than Jose Lopez.  You throw it 98 mph, he's going to let the bat fly and he's going to rip it down the RF line.

It's a bit easier for LH'ers to get away with this.   There have been many, many extreme pull lefties, such as Teddy Ballgame, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, etc.  For some reason there aren't as many Juan Gonzalezes.

Still, Saunders pulls the ball so much that it's disconcerting to watch.  We saw him shifted like in his 5th game this year.  The shift is going to be a huge problem for him.



Part 2




there is no such thing as a suppressed IDEA on this website.  :- ) The animal doesn't exist.
However, (minimal) steps will be taken to ensure low-friction idea transfer. 
Beavis-and-Butthead posts that are (1) devoid of intellectual content and (2) intended to make the environment unpleasant will be (3) cleaned up.  If you want to regurgitate on the site, I'll reluctantly come by with a mop. 
Nonsensical one-liners redacted.  We were all impressed with your irreverence, though. 
Irreverence is such a rare commodity in America in 2010.  So fresh.


I'm really liking Saunders.  I'm glad he's getting playing time.  But, his splits show a super-nova sized flare about getting TOO hyped too soon.
May: .220/.273/.415 (.687) - .292 BABIP   3/15 BB/K
June: .215/.271/.492 (.764) - .225 BABIP 5/20 BB/K
vs RHP: .256/.315/.537 (.851) - .300 BABIP 7/26 BB/K
vs LHP: .074/.107/.185 (.292) - .063 BABIP 1/10 BB/K 


Bryan Lahair has a 200 OPS point difference in his minors career between LH and RH pitching (luck included).  He CAN'T hit lefties.  And it approaches 400 points of difference in his last 3 seasons.  At AA and above vs the LH side he's abominable.  Utterly worthless against any moderately competent lefty.
Mike's minor league splits, neutralized for luck, are 66 OPS points apart.  He has a .40 batting eye against lefties and a .50 against righties.  He was basically even in the low minors.  But if you look at the last couple of years, when he's been facing lefties with nastier breaking and offspeed stuff (something lacking in the low minors), it shifts dramatically to a .30 eye vs LH and 200+ OPS points difference.
Nothing in that says the LH side can't catch up to a large degree.  He's had 250 extra ABs against righties and is slamming the ball now when he gets a hold of a pitch from one.  He's never shown himself to be the awful platoon-only bat that guys like Lahair are, he just hasn't SEEN enough good lefty pitching to adjust yet.
But it'll be a year and a half before he sees enough lefties to be where he is right now against righties.
So you hope his righty-crushing ways can make him valuable enough for him to see a year and a half of lefties and find out if he can improve.  I think he absolutely can get better.

Taro's picture

It isn't even that big of deal if he ends up failing vs lefties. Being a lefty hitter he has the platoon advantage, so the wider the split the better it is for us.
You prefer a theoretical 1.000/.600 OPS RH/LH split if you can get it to a .800/.800 split. The first one allows you to maximize the weapons on your bench and really play to your strengths.
A Saundesr-Wilson platoon works just fine for me if Saunders end up flailing vs LH pitching.


But as G-Money notes statistically, and as the eyes confirm, Saunders is going to be able to hit lefties.
Agreed that Saunders is almost more exciting as a platoon player (and there would be your PT for another young player Taro) .... but he can turn around anything.  Saunders can pull a 100 fastball.   He's going to be plenty quick enough to hit LH's.
He's got what, 225 AB's in the majors.  No surprise that he needs the extra tick on the clock RH-vs-LH right now against ML pitching.  Might not need it for long.


My point regarding Saunders current split was intended to both note how good he's doing already against righties - and to "caution" about the future against lefties.
No.  I do not think Saunders is going to bat .096 against lefties lifetime.  But, it is certainly plausible that he might max out as a .500 hitter against lefties, (which renders him effectively useless - and pegged as a pure platoon bat).
The #1 thing going for him?  Not that his minor league OPS split is only 30 points, (which is a good sign in and of itself).  The #1 thing going for him is that club is continuing to throw him out there against lefties.  If the club didn't believe in him, Langerhans, (with no significant split), could be picking up those ABs. 
I LOVE the fact they marched him out there to face Cliff Lee.  (Okay, Gutz wasn't starting due to illness - so how much of that was choice vs. necessity is unclear).  But, I *LIKE* the idea of sending out "developing" players against the monster elite.  The concept here is similar to the batting donut -- let them face Sabathia today, and the Washburn's he faces tomorrow aren't going to seem quite so tough.  (And, let's face it, the elite pitchers are likely going to 'own' the guys coming off your bench, anyway).
AFTER a kid has developed, and the read on his limitations are more solidly classified - THEN, you can start being selective about which lefties your platoon candidate faces. 
2010 has become a perfect season for seeing what Saunders can do.  And it is likely that by next year, he'll be a giant leap closer to answering the question of whether he can adjust to lefties at the major league level.

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