Thanks Doc - appreciate your response and your setting out the heirarchy of criteria on which we should be evaluating the good Sargeant's job performance.
Don't get the idea that SSI is trying to prop anybody up
Amigo axed about "lineup decisions" talking, mostly, about whether Wedge shoulda had Jaso and Wells in there sooner. Good question. But first, a word from our sponsor about "lineup decisions" generally. From Bill James Online this week:
Hey Bill...The Reds are a strong playoff contender this year, but the first 2 batters in the lineup (Cozart, .298) and Stubbs (.286) have not just horrible OBP's, but the WORST OBP's out of the typical starting 8 (Hanigan, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Ludwick/Heisey, Stubbs, and Bruce). How unusual is this to have the two worst leading off? It seems that it would be particularly uncommon for a contender to have two such throw-aways leading off your lineup, and would really limit opportunities for Votto to drive someone in. I think it says a lot about Dusty Baker that he continues to stick with the decision of starting his batting order in that manner. I'm sure people would ask who would be better options, and I guess my response would be.....just about anyone! Assuming you don't want to put Votto or Bruce there, I would still think that Phillips, Frazier, or even the catcher Hanigan would be much better options. Are you aware of any comparable situation? Thanks!Asked by: markomachineAnswered: 7/16/2012The '61 Yankees had their two lowest on base percentages batting 1 and 2. Their on base percentage from their leadoff hitters was .293 (OPS .609), and from their #2 hitters, .283 and .628. All other positions (except 9th, of course) had an on base percentage at least .298, and an OPS at least .671.I think history shows fairly definitively that a mis-aligned batting order is a very minor obstacle to team success. You're only costing yourself, at most, maybe two games. It just means that you have to have a 94-win team rather than a 92-win team.
There are times when there are hidden factors at play in lineup selection. The 1961 Yankees were NOT one of those times.
It's not like Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek were fast players who got fastballs for Mickey Mantle to hit: Kubek stole like 2 bases and Richardson 9. It's not like Mantle and Maris made Richardson and Kubek better, by getting them fastballs to hit. Richardson and Kubek had ordinary years by their standards.
Ralph Houk simply hit Richardson and Kubek 1-2 because that was the typecast. The Yankees won 109 games. They're often argued as THE best team that ever took the field.
James isn't using the 1961 Yankees as proof that lineups don't matter much; he's using them as a colorful illustration of it. James has, for 40 years, wallowed in the lineups of the last hundred years. He flatly states that it doesn't matter (much) what the lineup is. What matters is whether your players play good.
More and more, SSI realizes that the best use of a lineup is to ---> get players to play good. If batting Brendan Ryan second will get him to choke up and smack the ball the other way, and if that gets him an 80 OPS+ instead of a 60 OPS+, then use the order for that. There are a bunch of ways to use a daily lineup to affect the way players do business. There are few ways to use a daily lineup to score more runs.
Should Ichiro be dropped down the lineup, as many are screaming for Wedge to do? A better strategy would be to walk over to him, stick a finger in his nose, pull him over to the nearest flight of stairs, and fling him down the stairs by the finger. No impact in terms of runs gained and lost. Huge impact in terms of forging a bitter war with one Hiroshi Yamauchi and his operatives.
You might be frustrated with Ichiro, and you might be feeling an uncontrollable urge to kick him in the man region (which is the real purpose of a lineup drop to #9. Vengeance for a string of two-bounders and infield pops that have felt like water torture). You'll feel better, but your team won't.
Sit Ichiro two games a week? That's a decision made above Sgt. Wedge's pay grade, amigos. It's also made above Jack Zduriencik's. That one doesn't go into Wedge's evaluation file.
Now, the question of playing time for Jaso, Wells, and Olivo, and how it relates to Sarge's ability to tell a ballplayer from a xylophone, that's another subject...
Not being a Wedge apologist, but just to add some input.
1. Wells striking out more than 25% of the time is a perfectly legitimate reason to not make him a mainstay of your lineup. The math doesn't work very well. I'm not disputing that he produces, but it's not malpractice to notice that there's downside, too.
2. True or not (and the numbers don't disprove it), Jaso is perceived as a guy who can be run-on at will. Just like having an Ayala closer blowing late leads, there is a psychological effect of having baserunners advance easily, even if the stats show Jaso makes up for it with his bat. True or not, Olivo is perceived as a guy who controls the running game and will inhibit what the other team is willing to attempt.
3. Rightly or wrongly, they believe they are helping Montero by not imposing the duties of everyday catcher upon him. In other words, they are not necessarily rewarding Olivo, they are (based on what they say) protecting Montero -- and Olivo gets the starts because they don't really trust Jaso as a defender.
I don't see any reason to ever have Olivo DH unless it's a very unusual situation, though.
Honestly, I view Wedge as an average MLB Manager.
If you ask me - "can you win a title with him?" - I'd say, "unlikely". Oh, he'd probably fare well enough if given the reins of a monster like the Yankees. But, a superb GM can make a manager's job pretty easy in some cases.
My view of Wedge is that he's plus on pitching. In general, I think he's a big reason the bullpen has been super this year. I also think his patience with the young guys (Beaven and Noesi) was generally played well ... even though the results weren't what one would have hoped.
As for the day-to-day lineup, my view of Wedge in April was that he was vastly too fond of "veteran entitlement". He's done nothing since then to alter that opinion.
He *talks* a great game. After Ichiro got his first two-day vacation and came back with a couple of great games afterword, he "said" that getting Ichiro a little more rest was worth exploring. Apparently, he hasn't felt it was worth doing.
Montero has out-CAUGHT Olivo. Montero, to this instant, has an .852 OPS as a catcher and .503 as a DH. Olivo is .593 catching and .342 as a DH. (Though in fairness, Olivo has 43 catching starts and only 6 DH starts). Montero sits at 34 CA starts and 42 DHes.
Montero cannot possibly be "wearing down" by catching too much --- because he ain't friggin' catching. Of his last 9 starts, only 3 were as a catcher.
If I wanted to be "nice", I could say Wedge is too stupid to notice that his prospect catcher, is an .850 hitter as a catcher, but he's continuing to play his .590 catcher the most.
If I wanted to be cynical, I could say Wedge is PURPOSEFULLY giving Montero more and more time as a DH, to *CAUSE* his numbers to go down, and thereby make Olivo look more palatable.
My general impression of Wedge is that despite given a team that is clearly in major rebuild mode, he has consistently favored the veteran players over the youth in every case where he had an option. Injuries have FORCED him to increase PT for the youth, giving the impression that without said injuries he would never have done it himself.
Even with excessively bad production over extended periods of time, veterans, (Olivo, Ryan, Ichiro, Figgins), have continued to be utilized. Ryan is the only one where the bench substitution(s) have not outproduced the veteran significantly.
My assessment of Wedge is that he is "extreme" old school ... believing so blindly in the power (and myth) of the critical need for veterans in the lineup that he refuses to let go of the paradigm to the (significant) detriment of the development of the youth.
Basically, I cannot think of a manager I've seen in my 40+ years of watching baseball that has ever been worse in regards to managing a team of prospects and short-timers. I believe 95% of managers would have done better in terms of getting the most out of the current crop of young HITTERS than Wedge has done.
When the longer ALL the young kids remain under Wedge's leadership, they continue to get worse ... I'm forced to conclude that he has "something" to do with that outcome.
Except for Seager, every kid who played under Wedge last season is doing worse this season. And Seager, after a great start, seems to scuffle more and more as the season progresses.
I don't know what is actually being taught or requested, (and I am highly skeptical that what is said publically to the press has much acquaintance with what he's saying in private). But, whatever it is ... the pattern is one of steady decline with continued exposure to Wedge as a manager.
Here are the regular players who are hitting worse this year than last:
Seager is the only one out of the bunch that has improved, (though he seems to have lost all of the gains he showed in April/May).
Klye is about 20 points of decline away from making it a sweep of guys getting worse that have more than 3 months under Wedge.
When you have a 100% "plays worse" rate as a manager ... then even if you are not directly responsible for the decline, it is very clear that you certainly aren't doing anything to negate whatever the cause might be.
1. Players seem to play hard for Wedge
2. He does just fine with the press
3. You don't hear Ichiro or Felix or Olivo (our leaders, or imagined ones) calling for his head. (Although Ichiro would certainly not do it in public, Felix, too I imagine. And Olivo is the beneficiary of Wedge's largesse).
4. And he has handled the bullpen without (seeming) problem, which was something of concern when he came.
All good and true.
On the Slop side, the team hasn't improved, the natives (fans) seem to be restless....and who he plays regularly (or did) can be questioned.
1. Wells was handled badly. Not played, then down...but finally up and our best bat.If the ends justifies the means here, then it worked. But I think he missed what Wells would bring, until he had no other option. Ultimately he played, however....after being jacked around.
2.Figgins has been handled badly by Z and Wedge in the sense that he shouldn't be here, at all....but I will say that Wedge has finally buried him on the bench and Figgins hasn't pubicly exploded. Would be interesting to sit in onthe discussions, in office, between those two. Listen, he's costing us a ton whether he doesn't play or if he goes home. We would be better off with a Luis Rodriguez as the utility guy.
3. Smoak. He isn't going to hit, last night's tater not withstanding. If Wedge keeps trotting out a Mendoza-line 1B, it is an issue. If he soon gives those AB's to Carp or Liddi or Cat or somebody else, then the call was late...but correct. See the Wells decision, above.
4. All this Olivo? No excuse. However...Olivo did DH (Yikes!) last night while Montero was behind the plate. More of this...Montero and Jaso catching, and I'll be much happier.
5. Iwakuma? Why the deep freeze for this guy?
I've been one of the biggest critics of Wedge, certainly around here. I don't think the team has shown the improvement that we wish for. However, there is the possiblity that his lineup decisions eventually move in the right decision....slowly. If we see less of Smoak (well, THIS Smoak) and Olivo in the very near future, then it will be indication that "slow-but-sure" is the Wedge trend.
Accordingly, I'm resigned to watching the Wedge M's (and promise not to complain too much) for the next 2.5 months. Who plays, who doesn't, and who gets jacked around will be what I'm looking for.
I won't be a Queen of Hearts ("Off with his head!") for a little bit. I promise.
Edit: Stuff learned today: I've always thought that Wedge saw the game through the eyes of a veteran catcher......a guy who was the grizzled old-dog AAA receiver and dispenser of justice.
However, in really looking at his playing record I'm not seeing what I thought I would see. Once he got out of the low minors, he was primarily a DH, not a catcher. He started 22 MLB games, 17 at DH and 5 at catcher. In his last 4 AAA seasons, he started 6, 9, 27 and 21 games behind the plate (out of 328 games played).
He was, BTW, a Moneyballer's dream, as a hitter. His MLB line in '92 (his only year with more than 11 MLB PA's) in 81 PA's was .250-.370-.500, with 5 homers.
From '94-'97, (he had his last 7 MLB PA's in '94) he walked 120, 111. 84 and 101 pts....and homered once every 18 AB's.
Which makes the Olivo fixation all the more odd.
Which is why Wedge won't be the guy to take us to the great beyond. That I'm sure of. But I won't call for his head for the next 2.5 months, as long as he keeps showing he EVENTUALLY gets to the right guy in the lineup. Montero and Smoak will be the proofs on this front.
Myself, I can't help but like the bulldog, all business, no BS approach that Wedge CONVEYS. The PRESENTATION is exactly what this Mariners team needed, and I'm sure in some ways that behind the scenes the Wedge you see publicly is the Wedge the players see privately.
But the bottom line is, as you say, the team has not progressed, and most alarmingly the young talent, which is the core of the rebuild, has not progressed. In fact the key cogs, Ackley, Smoak and to a lesser degree Montero regressed. Now this COULD be coincidence, but I don't think so. At some point you've got to hold Wedge accountable, because either Jack and his staff is not selecting the right players or Wedge is not getting them successfully adapted to MLB.
Count me in the Wedgie camp. Let's step through this.
1) Wedge's refusal to play Jaso at the beginning of the season despite Jaso's demonstrated credentials as a strong platoon hitter against RH pitching.
Demonstrated credentials? Jaso hit .651 with an OPS+ of 85 the previous season for another team in another division. A team that was willing to let him go for merely Josh Lueke. He certainly hadn't demonstrated much yet for the M's. And refusal to play him? We must be talking about the first two weeks of the season, while the M's were still sorting through the impacts of the Japan opening? Jaso played twice in the first 13 games (15%) and has played in 65% of the games since then. To me this counts as a point in favor of Wedge. He sorted out what he had, identified Jaso as a potential contributor, and has placed him in a position to excel.
2) His refusal to play Wells at the beginning of the year despite Wells' solid major league hitting record and superior defense.
Casper Wells was sent down after playing in 54% of the M's first 46 games. Hitting a whopping .213/.302/.362. He's come up and excelled. And been placed into the third spot in the line-up and is being given regular starts vs. both righties and lefties.
When looking at Wells we also have to consider the development of Saunders and Seager. At the beginning of the season the directive from on high was to attempt to squeeze as much value out of Chone Figgins as humanely possible. Figgins was hitting lead-off and necessitated a spot on the field for reason I believe to be mainly out of Wedge's control. As a result, Wedge had to find a spot for him, either 3B or LF. Playing Wells would have meant sitting Seager or Saunders. Seager was the best bat on the team at the beginning of the season. I thought Saunders was lost. I thought he was done. Wedge stuck with him, it paid off.
Once Figgins played himself out of the line-up (which I'll get to more later) the situation sorted itself out. Pretty masterfully if you ask me.
3) His obstinate man-love for Olivo despite Olivo's high CERA, woeful hitting, and terrible base-running at the expense of Jaso and Montero.
See this article by Geoff Baker: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/marinersblog/2018479373_mariners_g...
Again, this is part of the reason that we won't know for a while whether Montero -- who has looked improved in individual games here and there -- can ever become an everyday catcher. We won't know until we see what he does when he catches five days in a row instead of just two.
It bears repeating: this is why he wasn't getting the bulk of catching assignments in April when his skill level was nowhere near where it's at now. Try to sit back and imagine what he'd have looked like on his fourth straight day behind the plate. The Mariners might be sitting 20 games under .500 instead of just 10. And he'd be a mental and physical wreck. So, again, this is another reason why Miguel Olivo had been catching every day. And why he'll probably still get the bulk of catching assignments of the team's trio. Not today, with Jaso back there so that he doesn't forget how to catch completely.
Neither Jaso nor Montero have proven the ability to be able to handle the physical requirements of being an everyday catcher. The organization believes that the best way to maximize Montero's development is work with him and slowly develop and increase his exposure behind the plate.
Makes sense to me.
4) Wedge's refusal to give Ichiro a single day off for the first 2 months of the season, despite Ichiro's advanced age of 38 & his worsening platoon split against LHP.
Yeah. Don't buy this one. Everything Ichiro is likely above Wedge's pay grade.
I understand the M's fan base is frustrated by losing. I get it. But I don't blame Wedge for the fact that Ichiro's declined faster than anyone expected. I don't blame him for the fact that he has to continue to play the highest paid player on the team. I don't blame him for the fact that Chone Figgins sucks. I don't blame him for the fact that all of his "veterans" on the offensive side of the team have been horrendous (Ichiro, Figgins, Guti (injured), Olivo, Ryan). I don't blame him for League's brain cramps and general ineffectiveness. And I certainly don't blame him for the fact that greater than 50% of the budget is being wasted on those vets, and that budget was reduced 25% before the season even started.
If you want someone to blame point your fingers squarely at ownership and upper management.
I will give Wedge many props, including:
Sticking with Saunders and building his confidence. After a lousy start to the season (after two weeks he looked completely lost), Wedge stuck with him and it's paid dividends.
Working Figgins out of the line-up without losing the clubhouse. No Wakamatsu like explosions. Figgins even seems engaged in the clubhouse and battles when he gets in the line-up. That's was no easy feat for any manager. Same with his handling of League. He gave them each enough chances to prove they belonged and made the right moves before it got out of hand.
Handling the bullpen. We debated for days around these parts about Wedge's achilles heel - his bullpen usage. And lo and behold, the bullpen has been one of the absolute strengths of the team, once Willhelmsen has taken over the closer spot.
His demonstrated ability to communicate. I think this has been an area of unspoken excellence. To the media, Wedge always defends his players (see League and Figgins) when they underperform. He says the right things and earns their trust. And when the time comes to make a move, a demotion, a line-up switch, there’s been no shock or surprise. The players know it is coming. I looooove that.
No one should ever be surprised when they get fired. If they are surprised that’s a sign that management hasn’t done an effective job of communicating. Here, we’ve seen again and again evidence that Wedge is communicating expectations and requirements for the players, sticking up for his team to the media, and when the players cannot meet those requirements he makes the move. This is good leadership.
I could go on, but I’m over a thousand words.. so I’ll stop with this:
I think that Wedge is the right guy for right now. He’s working the team through a transitionary (I hope) period. Getting the team through the struggles of young and developing players, while transitioning out the veterans. All the while maintaing a high level of ‘fight’ - which is dang hard to do when upper management sits there at the beginning telling everyone “let’s not kid ourselves, this is going to be a challenging year for us.”
I've been trapped at work today and unable to make my own rambling comment. You said virtually everything I was going to.
Only have a few secs while at work, but ... that's a nice list of items to put in the credit side of the ledger.
Not sure we've come close to exhausting either side, but it's fascinating to read through this as various expert observers throw their potatoes into the hobo pot.
Michael Saunders, that one is huge. And not many org's would be reaping the benefits on that one, I don't think.
1. Saunders: I'm not giving much credit to Wedge here. He had no place to go except Saunders, as Guti was ailing. His other choice was Wells (who I thought should have had the job)...and he wasn't buying in on Wells. It was one of the two (although he has started Figgins in center 6 times!). He went with Saunders out of necessity.
2. Demoting Wells to let Figgins play left is an example of jacking Wells around, regardless of whether it came down from on high, or not. A superior player ended up in Tacoma because the M's thought they could find value (trade) from Figgins, despite the fact they didn't have a sniff all winter. And if you're arguing that Wells wasn't up to MLB snuff and deserved the demotion then it begs the question, "What about Smoak?"
3. As recently as 2010 Jaso started 80 games at catcher. Basically 50% of the time. He can at least carry that much work load. Montero has show he can carry at least 40% of the load (that's just a bit more than he's caught now). So there seems to be ample evidence that between the two they can carry the teams catching duties.
But, as I said.....I'll nod my head to most of the other things mentioned and I'll watch and not call for Wedge's head, trusting that we will soon see a whole lot less of Montero and (this) Smoak. You could argue that Smoak's performance has been a result of a terrible (.219) BABIP.....but that would ignore his career, nearly as terrible, BABIP (.252) and the fact that his three seasons have seen BABIP's of .255, .273, and .219. there is plenty of evidence that he doesn't hit the ball very hard very often.
Of all the problems that the M's have I would rank Wedge way down on the list. For those above that think that Wedge is somehow managing to hurt all of the young guys at the same time, I ask, How? With what device? By preaching aggressiveness? It seems to me that each young guy is going through some very typical growing pains. What ISN'T typical is a team with only young guys going through growing pains so it looks really really bad.
That is one of the reasons Wedge has been pining for a veteran bat that doesn't suck (Olivo, Ryan and Figgins don't count because we always knew they were meh to terrible with the bat, and Ichiro, well Ichiro could have been that vet bat, but turns out the cliff dive was for real and not just a one year thing). Not so much so the vet could teach the kids anything, or mentor them or any junk like that, but just to keep the exposure of their struggles lower. If Smoak and Ackley were batting 7th and 8th while the team was middling around .500 with an average or slightly below average offense propped by a Cuddyer or Ibanez or whoever then their struggles would not be in such a bright spotlight as it is today.
There does seem to be a mental block happening inside of safeco for the whole team, but I am not sure what Wedge is supposed to do about that, other than ask the upper management (behind closed doors) to keep the roof closed or move in the fences.
If anything I think Wedge has managed all of the hitter struggles with aplomb.
At least we don't have Bobby Valentine picking fights with beloved team members, and getting them shipped out of town for 10 cents on the dollar :)
Lets not forget that Wells OPS'd 588 in spring training while Figgins was showing some life out of the lead off spot (OPSing 785). And Smoak tore up Spring Training OPSing almost 1000. Coming out of Spring Training not many folks were bemoaning sending Well's down he was clearly struggling to begin the year. If anything I like how the M's managed Wells and I see that handling as being a part Wells' success now, not as a hindrance to it. in a lot of ways I wish they had done something similar with Ackley and Smoak and eased them in a bit slower this year (not that we had any veterans to help us do that), and maybe we wouldn't be seeing the terrible struggles from them this year.
Or maybe they just needed a half a year to flail away and now they will turn into the monsters we were hoping for (they did both homer last night :) )
As TV and internet observers we are in no position to answer that. Are you suggesting that no manager has ever had a detrimental effect on young players in general, and that if we cannot say how it cannot be?
To be sure, correlation is not causation, but correlation is cause for concern. The M's are ripping KC again as we speak, but we saw series in Toronto and Detroit earlier this season that made us thing they were finally busting out, only to see them return to a miserable offensive club. Sandy's point, while unable to explain the cause, is certainly calling attention to the correlation. The fact is that this team has not progressed under Wedge, and particularly key youngsters have regressed. How? I dunno. But the problem is either the team Z has supplied to Wedge or Wedge's failure to get what is necessary out of that talent. Could he yet? Sure. But the fact remains that so far he hasn't. If I had a manager in a company I was running who I supplied with what I thought was good young talent and it went two years without significant progress I would definitely be concerned. I wouldn't necessarily fire him, but I'd definitely be thinking of correlation even if I couldn't yet identify causation.
1) "Sticking" by Saunders: As noted by others, when Guti went down, the only other option for CF was Wells, who was so disliked by Wedge that he couldn't start ahead of Figgins. And Wedge did NOT "stick with" Saunders. While Ichiro was playing every game, Saunders was replaced in CF 3 times ... ALL by Figgins with Wells playing LF. In the month of April, Figgins got exactly ONE (1) game off. Saunders got 3. Wells started only 6.
But ... "sticking with" a hitter is not only about playing time. In April, while Wedge was determined to give Figgins every chance to play, Saunders started the season batting 8th. He would be no higher than 6th in the lineup, (and would continue to bat mostly 8th or 9th though May 15th. While he was HOT ... and batting .830 in the month of April, Saunders got multiple days off and languished at the bottom of the lineup.
Wedge waited until Saunders slumped a little to .713 ... and THEN he got a shot at hitting second. Figgins' OPS had to hit .557 before Saunders could get a shot at the top half of the order. But that only lasted a week, before he was back in 6-8 land. To this date, Saunders has more games batting 8th (28) than he does 1st-5th COMBINED, (2,9,3,0,9 = 23).
He didn't try him as a #5 hitter, (which is perfect for a guy with a combo of power, (leading or tied for team lead in HRs for much of the season), and speed - still tied for team lead in SBs). Stick with him? Three of his last four starts were batting 8th. It looks more like Wedge is CONTINUING to do everything in his power to minimize him.
2) As for Figgins: Simply put: veterans get EVERY edge in terms of PT, (while Figgins PAs have been severely cut ... and being that he had a .310 OPS in May and .387 in June that isn't a surprise), Wedge managed to find a way to get Figgins into 11 games in May and 15 in June. And it's no chore to bench a guy who is hitting worse than pitchers for 2 months.
3) On the bullpen, we agree. I have nothing but praise for Wedge's handling of the pitching side of things.
4) And here we get back to what I see (and many fans agree) is the root problem with Ms management. They are FAR more concerned about presenting a good face than in doing what is needed to win. Has Wedge "said" the right things? Absolutely. He talks a great line. But his results stink.
Me? I'd prefer an Ozzie Guillen who blows up and says utterly stupid stuff from time to time, but whose teams respond to his inanities and actually improve and win than to have a guy who puts a good face on a franchise as every player under his care gets steadily worse the longer he sticks around.
That said ... I am generally a patient guy. I was perfectly willing to suffer though Noesi's starts, because you need to build up info to make informed decisions. And just because a manager doesn't act quickly enough does not mean he doesn't act. But has Wedge acted?
July -- 3 months of play in the books -- what has he done in July?
Olivo has started 6 of 11 games at Catcher, (plus two more as DH)
Jaso has 2 starts at CA, (3 as DH)
Montero has 3 starts at CA, (3 as DH)
That's 8 Olivo, 6 Montero and 5 Jaso. To this MINUTE, Wedge still prefers the veteran who has been massively outhit by both other catchers AND outcaught by the prospect. The clear bias here is toward the "entitled veteran".
Ichiro has played every game in July, (and still is not even considered for batting any lower than 3rd in the order). Veteran Entitlement continues unabated.
If Olivo is *STILL* starting more than either Jaso or Montero, Wedge is a problem.
If Saunders is *STILL* hitting 8th in the order on a regular basis, Wedge is a problem.
If Ichiro continues to play every single day, Wedge is a problem, (and blaming this on ownership is a complete copout. *HANK AARON* did not play every day after age 36. The notion that ownership is unwilling to allow Ichiro to get a day off once every two weeks (for example), is preposterous in the extreme. Ichiro is playing EVERY day because Wedge wants him to -- period. Wedge was not fired after either of the two games Ichiro didn't play. There's a humongous amount of room between relegation to bench, (Figgins getting 6 starts and playing 15 games a month), versus say ... getting two days off PER MONTH ... like Ackley or Seager.
Figgins has gotten 14 starts in the last 65 games (4 of which were covering for Saunders/Gutierrez when they were sick/injured), good for starting 21.5% of the time, the other 13 games he played in were pretty much entirely as defensive replacement or pinch runner. Would you prefer that he got fewer starts? Certainly, but he is the primary defensive replacement for Seager, who is the primary defensive replacement for Ackley, so until the team has a real backup 3b/2b (Munenori Kawasaki doesn't count), Figgins is going to see some time.
Regarding Montero, do not cite last week as favoritism for veterans. Montero has had a mild concussion that has been talked about a lot, and has been unable to catch for nearly 2 weeks, and regarding Jaso, the team has faced 5 lefties in the last 8 games. Let's please remember that John Jaso bats .158/.287/.228 against lefties for his career and .048/.120/.048 this year. I don't care how little you like Olivo's approach, vs. Lefties this season he's OPSing .670 with an ISO near .200. There is no reason to start Jaso against left handed pitching if another option is available.
As far as Michael Saunders, I'm his biggest fan. I was the first one to suggest maybe there was something to his wacky offseason training. Batting him low in the order was probably for the best, as he has admitted to putting extra pressure on himself to succeed and having to be talked down by his wife. I think Saunders has the potential to be a leader, and has the potential to be an excellent hitter batting somewhere 1-5, but he's really emotional and has a tendency to put to much pressure on himself to succeed. Batting low in the order (specifically against left handed pitching only by the way) is a way to limit the pressure on him. Not to mention, half this team is designed to hit 1st or 2nd, and the other half is designed to bat 5th, so those guys overflow into the 3rd and 4th spots and beyond Saunders not batting behind Smoak or Montero, I'm happy with him batting wherever.
Speaking of Montero's speed, and to answer a question from another thread: Montero is a terrible base runner who's only saving grace is that he doesn't take stupid chances. If you look at his Fangraphs page vs. Olivo's, Montero has gathered a BaseRuns score of -2.5 in a little over 300 PA, while Olivo has gathered a -2.5 over his career spanning 3700 PA.
As far as Montero having stumbled when catching full time, look at when Olivo went out and Montero 16 of 24 games played. Starting from the May 1st, Montero hit .247/.309/.400 while striking out 24.5% of the time. Wedge gave him another opportunity to catch virtually everyday in June, catching him 6 times over 8 games; he batted .273/.294/.394 while striking out 26.4% of the time. When Montero has caught 70%+ his batting has been mediocre. If you cut the first couple games off those strings (to allow for the everyday aches and pains to set in as well as being distracted coming up with game plans with pitchers more often) the lines drop to .221/.291/.377 and .240/.269/.400 respectively.
Wedge says catching everyday would be a hindrance for Montero's development, and I believe him.