Kyle Seager and the streakiness inherent in hitting the ball in the air all of the damn time

Joey strokes the Seager boner of the Mariners’ early season confusion-orgy.

This is a necessary post to remind us all of why we love Kyle Seager.

Less sitting, more hitting.

Mariners’ fans are familiar with Kyle Seager. He has been a lone bright spot on a team that has had very few bright spots over the past few years. If you consider an average, productive, worth-having major league position player to be worth roughly 3.0 WAR, then Kyle Seager is the lone Mariner to qualify as a productive everyday Major Leaguer on this club for the past 2 seasons. This is pretty unfortunate, given how 3.0 WAR is kind of the low-end cutoff for this degree of productivity and most teams have a few of these sorts of players if not 5 or 6 of them.

The Mariners have Robinson Cano and Corey Hart now. This is cool and something that makes watching the mariners a tiny bit less depressing than it was the past couple of years. These are veteran players with proven track records who have been more or less the same guy throughout their careers and are now firmly operating within their prime years. The Mariners have had veterans before, but these veterans either had not been good players for a few years (Ibanez), or were simply never good players to begin with (Morse). It can be pretty depressing watching a team that is riddled with question marks. It is more depressing watching a team entirely comprised of question marks. The term “riddled” is used to describe some surface filled with a bajillion holes and thusly rendered into something resembling Swiss cheese. A lot of teams have had this Swiss-cheese consistency. The Mariners the past few years haven’t even really had any cheese at all which makes the term “riddle” not even really work. The no-cheese Mariners, some would call them (Nobody would ever call them that).

But there is more cheese here than meets the eye! Kyle Seager exists. He is the tiniest of morsels remaining after a drunk-five-year-old-with-a-hole-puncher-esque onslaught of inconsistency. And he isn’t even that consistent within his own consistency. That was a silly sentence. How can a player be consistently inconsistent? The term I would use: streaky.

Imagine if you will a coin. A coin when flipped has (basically) a 50% outcome of being either heads or tails. Let us then assign a positive outcome to one of these events. In the case of heads, you get 1 dollar. In the case of tails, somebody changes the channel at your apartment to the Hallmark Channel and then subsequently shatters your remote control. It’s all about the O.

Bad analogy do-over. Kyle Seager has been a player who can look terrible for stretches, but whose numbers have in our recent experience eventually trended towards a certain, predictable result over the course of an entire season’s worth of ups and downs. We have recently been provided some empirical evidence to support this claim. Kyle Seager spent the first two weeks of this year being absolutely terrible. Prior to this last week, Seager was arguably the most maddeningly awful player in the Mariners’ lineup. Yet, we as fans have come to expect Seager to be a solid contributor. How can these two outcomes coexist within the same paradigm and both be true? Streakiness. Seager is not alone in his up and down ways. Just look at Mike Zunino…

But what about Seager’s play results in this kind of streakiness? It is easy to assign a certain nebulous, platonic understanding of streakiness to a player without looking deeper into the player’s skillset to determine if there is perhaps, an underlying manner of playing the game that can result in this day-to-day inconsistency.

“Kyle is just hot right now” people might say. If those people were talking about Kyle Seager the way people talk about Hansel in Zoolander.

I believe that in Kyle Seager’s case there is a rhyme and perhaps a reason to his streakiness. Kyle Seager is a flyball hitter. Kyle Seager is also almost strictly speaking a dead-pull hitter. This year, there has been a record-setting pace for the number of infield shifting being done around the league. Teams are no longer simply shifting for big, obvious dead-pull guys in the traditional mold of a David Ortiz or Prince Fielder. Teams are noticing that little guys can be one-trick ponies too. Kyle Seager is one such player that could see more shifts in his future.

Let’s look at a Kyle Seager spray chart courtesy of baseballsavant.com. I have went ahead and filtered out the groundballs for a clearer picture into what I am looking for with Seager’s game.

Kyle Seager spray chart leftandright flies

Bingo bango bongo. As we can see, Seager’s success comes when he pulls the ball. Period. There is really no other interpretation to be drawn here. Seager is a dead-pull flyball hitter who shows impressive power to the pull side which the eyeball test validates by noting one of the more beautifully classic lefty uppercuts that I have seen in a while– let alone by a player in Mariners’ blue.

There is an upside and a downside to this kind of hitter and that is fairly easy to qualify. Fly ball hitters’ success is governed by the quality of their contact more so than a player who sprays the ball around and hits groundballs with more frequency. A guy like Cano is going to hit for a higher average and a higher BABIP than Seager because Cano is primarily a line drive hitter. If Cano misses a pitch, he may send a soft, broken-bat line drive into shallow center for a single. If Seager just misses a pitch, he is going to most likely be serving up lazy fly balls to right. When Cano hits the ball the other way, he is likely to get a few more singles as soft line drives drop down in front of the left fielder. When Seager hits the ball the other way, he loses distance and with it some of the success his pull-side power grants him, again, serving up lazy flyballs to the outfielder.

Players can change over the course of their careers, and Seager has several years of good baseball ahead of him. All indications point to Seager carrying the success he has had into the future- but if his style of hitting remains static he will likely remain prone to cold spells when his flies aren’t leaving the yard or crashing into fences.

This doesn’t bother me at all. We have seen what happens when Seager is squaring pitches up. Seager has carried the Mariners to 3 victories in the past 5 games. No player exists in a vacuum, and credit should be given to the guys who got on base in front of him in both of his go-ahead blasts this past week. That being said somebody has to sack up and hit the ball hard to drive those guys in. That guy has been Kyle Seager. The Mariners would do well to capitalize on this stretch, as it should be clear to everyone with eyeballs and the gumption necessary to sit down and watch the Mariners play baseball that when Kyle Seager plays well this team is astronomically superior to when he is mired in one of his slumps.

At the end of the year, Kyle Seager’s numbers will look good. They won’t reflect the AL player-of-the-week numbers he put up this past week. They don’t have to. As long as the hot stretches properly balance out the (hopefully shortened) slumps, the aggregate total will be a solid, above-average major leaguer. The Mariners don’t have many of those. We should all be grateful that he graces us with his presence. We should be doubly grateful that he seems to be superbestpals with Justin Smoak. If we were to get rid of Smoak would Seager’s production dip? Is Smoak required for moral support in order for Seager to continue to be productive? Would Smoak have to start for this to work, or could he be maintained in a symbolic role? This is something to be monitored moving forward, as I delve into the depths of their relationship via anonymous sources and idle social media speculation.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that Seager is doused with frigid Gatorade more often in the coming weeks. Sorry boss.

Umbrella!

100 Hours: More WHOA!, Less Woe

 

“Sports is human life in microcosm.” -Howard Cosell

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The NBA Playoffs have started. THE NBA PLAYOFFS HAVE STARTED!!! THE NBA PLAYOFFS HAVE STARTED!!!!!!! THE NBA PLAYOFFS HAVE STARTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

People can barely contain themselves. Okay, I can barely contain myself. But actually, they can’t contain themselves at all.

In T-Dot (Toronto, for the uninitiated), frisky GM Masai Ujiri is dropping F-bombs and mics:

while thousands of fans frantically cheer on a screen outside the Air Canada Centre. Outside. In Canada. Thousands. Outside. I’m pretty sure Oh, Canada is permanently blanketed with three feet of snow, the Northern tundra where white walkers roam, and, like, the polar vortex.

T-Dot is emblematic of the craziness that has transpired in last 100 hours of the most inspired basketball this season.

There have been three overtime games in the last three days of the playoffs—two of which ended on the last possession. Of the 13 games played this post-season, five finished within a five point scoring differential. Four of the five matchups that have played two games have split, and five of eight top-flight seeds have already lost home court advantage.

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Sport’s obvious limits are what draw us to it.

Life is messy. Between work, school, families and what have you, the relationships within and without come with an unmitigated set of motions, motives and reactions.

In basketball (as in every sport ever) there are actual lines that frame the boundaries of the game. These lines are guidance. They represent, within them, where and how to move, provoke or deter motives and test one’s reactions. It projects the illusion of order. Well-played basketball is an exercise in ordering the chaos.

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The San Antonio Spurs have come the closest of current teams to have mastered the playoff chaos.

They will beat the Dallas Mavericks in 5. There’s a pretty good likelihood they’ll be pulling out the dustpan next Monday, but Dirk Nowitzki has a rare kind of playoff magic that’s itching to flare up in one final burst of glory. That Greg Popovich and his Spurs have been so good for so long they are only now shedding the yoke of being “boring” is the price of excellence.

The Los Angeles Clippers (to an indescribably lesser extent) have shown flashes of being boring this post season as well. Last night’s 40-point victory over the Warriors was utterly mind-numbing. And if we’re being honest there were moments (Blake Griffin’s 19 minutes and 14 seconds, specifically) in game one—despite the loss—that were pretty dreary too.

(That might be first time Blake Griffin’s involvement in any basketball related event was called boring. Sorry, Blake.)

The Miami Heat-Charlotte Bobcats series is also boring, especially with esteemed maestro of the low block Al Jefferson out or questionable. Like Carl Sandburg once wrote about life the first round of the NBA Playoffs being an onion: sometimes you sweep.

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The great irony in our demand for order is that we crave chaos. Primal. Carnal. Basic. The universe in its resting state. Chaos.

Here enters the Game—what some call the human element. Unpredictable. Primal. Carnal. Basic.

Above the guiding lines of the hardwood, an infinitely unfolding series of events is playing out—all related, yet largely independent of one another. And as the clock winds down, we hold our breath while crowds hum waiting for that perfectly distilled moment of chaos that defies the relentlessly constant limits of the court.

CHAOS REIGNS SUPREME:

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In the competitive series—of which there are six (Pacers-Hawks, Rockets-Blazers, Bulls-Wizards, Clippers-Warriors, Raptors-Nets, Supersonics-Grizzlies)—there are great basketball games being played. The three overtime games thus far have come from this pool of matchups. In each OT game, the home team has lost. Beware the OT-fenokee swamp.

RipCity’s Lamarcus Alrdridge has had the best game of the postseason, leading PDX to victory with 46-18 on 17/31 shooting in overtime, despite fouling out late in OT. LMA has a clear size advantage on the Rockets. Fronting LMA with Houston’s center leaves Robin Lopez to operate on smaller players, which was okay in game one (6-8 on 2/7 shooting) but will prove problematic over the course of a series.

The Bulls-Wizards OT game last night also came down to the wire. Unfortunately, the Bulls just don’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Wiz who zip the ball around well. Nenê looks like an All-star, and the Bulls looked tired in the end, scoring only six points in the last 11 minutes of regulation and overtime. The Bulls are the only team in the NBA that had five players average 29 or more minutes a game during the regular season (not including Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, who logged 37.4 and 31.1 mpg in 23 and 10 games, respectively). Jimmy Butler is averaging 48.5 minutes a game in the playoffs. He’s young. It’s only two games. BUT THERE ARE ONLY 48 MINUTES IN A BASKETBALL GAME! And he averaged 39 mpg during the regular season to boot!

The OKC SuperSonics were a .gif making machine Monday night–unfortunately for them, in a losing effort. The OKC-Memphis matchup is battle of styles. If Tony Allen can keep Kevin Durant to an honest less than .500 field goal percentage, and the rest of the team stays at par on D, we might have ourselves a real live upset. Grit and size win. But at least we’ll always have these:

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There is another layer of chaos v. limits (there are always more layers of chaos).

It’s the limits of the Game. Not simply the boundaries, but the physical limit of humans. In cliché, this is “leaving it all on the floor.”

I don’t know what that looks like for me. And for the plebeian 99.9% of us—the non-professional-athlete humans on this earth—our lives do not rely on the physically observable skill of athleticism (luckily for me).

Watching KD do this:

is, in fact, witnessing a human being reach the limit of his ability, aspiration and everything that makes him human.

The sheer joy (and anxiety) of watching someone else, all at once, transcend limits and embody chaos simultaneously—that is the thrill of sport.

The Mariners’ bullpen situation examined through a lens of misery

New and exciting way to quantify Mariners losses for the diehard fan!

Lock a loaded pistol into your nightstand or any such desk that has a locking drawer in it.

Take the key. Lose it intentionally. Perhaps give it to a friend to hide. Perhaps lose it in a river. Throw it into the ocean. Tie it to a piece of bread, feed it to a duck and then scare the duck away. Feed it to Anna Paquin and have her construct some sort of homemade dirigible to guide a herd of geese into the southern hemisphere. She loses her father in the process, but gains an experience and an adventure that is timeless, classic. Jeff Daniels. Deff Janiels.

I don’t actually remember if her dad dies in that movie, but they are flying Ultralights. Ultralights are a death sentence. Thus, they both died in that movie.

I’m in love with a stripper.

Once the key is thoroughly lost, a friend or other observer be they psychiatrist, truant or parole officer, can gauge the Mariners’ success (read: failure) by the number of claw marks left near the handle of the drawer in which the pistol (representative of the sweet release of the NFL season) is locked.

Experiment end.

Since my fingernails are all filled up with splinters typing is kind of hard.

The Mariners have suffered through what is the first, but will not be the last, prolonged stretch of ineptitude in the long, long MLB season. Yesterday the Mariners brought up a guy who struggled mightily in a starting role in Brandon Maurer.

Maurer was already well on his way to being transitioned into a reliever. They brought him up, not fully stretched out, in a starting role. He proceeded in delivering 4+ solid innings in which he surrendered 1 ER, walked 2, struck out 4, and generally looked solid all around. Maurer looked to be throwing free and easy, his fastball touching 97 on multiple occasions with some great late movement. He kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, thusly limiting the hard contact that made him suck last year. His changeup looked far better than the minus offering we saw in his starting appearances last year. Basically, his performance was everything the Mariners could have asked for. He left the game with a lead and the Mariners’ bullpen merely had to come in and seal the deal.

Unfortunately, this bullpen is tired. And this bullpen is kind of bad. The walking of the bulls.

What even is this?

McClendon initially brought in Joe Beimel who took care of his batter in short order.

Then McClendon brought in short person and relief pitcher extraordinaire Danny Farquhar, who walked a batter but otherwise got out of his inning with a relatively minimal dose of drama.

Then the Furbush arrived. And in this case, the carpet totally matched the pubes as Furbush proceeded to issue a hit to one of the two batters he faced, leaving a guy-on-second-fire to be put out by…

…Tom Wilhelmsen, the bartender. Alcohol is flammable. Alcohol is also inflammable.

I am generally against bringing Wilhelmsen into the game in most situations. I am categorically against bringing him in for high leverage situations in which a runner is already on second and the Mariners are clinging like Leonardo DiCaprio to a one run lead.

The Bartender is broken. There is no doubt to this. The guy goes 3-0 to every batter he faces. The stuff is still there, but his mind just is not right and has not been since the beginning of last year when he was more or less untouchable.

As a Mariners fan, it is one thing to lose a few games to a team that is objectively shitty. It is another thing entirely to go out and blow leads over and over in the 8th inning to said teams. The offense is one thing. The Mariners have not scored that many runs. But still, playoff teams win games where they take leads into the 8th. Winning teams win games that are winnable. What a stupid fucking sentence!

The best course of action for the Mariners is to continue to dip into a deep farm system for help. That help is there. The help is named Carson Smith.

Can I help? I am The Help. Who helps The Help? The Illuminati.

Similar to Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps, Carson Smith and Dominic Leone are two guys who I have always imagined as being super best pals. This is probably because they were linked in terms of both their Major League expectations as well as their timetables. Leone is up, pitching in the Mariners’ bullpen and doing a solid job thus far. Carson Smith has spent limited time in AAA but, in the past 2 seasons has posted a better-than 11 K/9 rate with stuff that projects as ready for a Major League bullpen ASAP Rocky.

So please Mariners. Stop putting out bushfires with alcohol. All of my fingernails and 1 of my toenails are already embedded into a wooden drawer in my apartment. Scrabbling at locked doors is hard to do with your feet. Don’t send help (to me, that is). Do bring up Carson Smith though. That would be an excellent idea!

Last night the Eastern Conference Playoffs got sexy. That’s right. Sexy.

Dujie continues his weird thing with evangelizing the Eastern Conference. We’ll do something on the West soon, but they, like, play real basketball over there, so it takes us a bit longer.

Last night marked the conclusion of another fantastical, probably overdrawn, NBA season. I’m probably still in denial. I tried turning on League Pass today, and the Xbox told me to get a life.

A lot has changed in the last week. Somehow, from the fecal mess that is the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference, events far greater than man have yielded first-round playoff matchups that are not simply “not bad.” Upon closer examination, they’re actually interesting! Have compelling narratives! And nuanced matchups! Olé!

East 18Indiana v. Atlanta

Whiffs of 8-1 upset here. The Hawks’ stock is rising, having won 7 of their last ten. While the Pacers stock has struggled in the home stretch.

We have no idea which Pacers team shows up this weekend. If it’s the November Pacers, it’s a sweep. But most likely, they’ll still be showing cracks, giving the Dirty Birds a shining sliver of hope.

This season’s Hawks have, at moments more frequent with a healthy Al Horford, shown flashes of something special on offense. They have the personnel to space the floor, the IQ to move the ball and one mean Popovich Padawan at the helm. The Dirty Birds are also going into the playoffs shooting and passing the ball as well as they have all season—top 5 in both categories over the last ten games. It’ll be up to the Pacers to live up to their own hype, make stops and not implode. They absolutely have the defensive ability to do it. Hopefully they can cobble together enough of an offense to get them by.

The Indiana-Atlanta series features some great matchups: Voegell v. Budenholzer. Offense v. Defense. David West v. Paul Milsap, two of the best true PF in the East. Playmaking wings v. 3s and Ds wings. White basketball haven v. one of the blackest cities in America.

The one I’ll be watching most closely: Pero Antic v. Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert’s greatest asset—and right now, only real asset—is mucking up offenses by clogging the lane. Antic’s ability to reliably shoot the three forces Hibbert out of defensive position. At that point, not only is your boy Roy totally uncomfortable on the perimeter, but the change in scheme butterfly effects the whole team, disrupting all the defensive rotation flow the team has spent the last 18 months making second nature. In fact, this phenomena has played out in the regular season to mixed results. In two losses (85-89 @Atl and 90-108 @Ind), Antic found individual success, scored 34 points on 6 for 10 from the three point line. More disturbingly, the Jeff Teague-Kyle Korver-Demarre Carroll-Paul Millsap-Antic lineup has outscored the Pacers an average of 14.5 points in the +/- differential.

Those losses also came before the Indy implosion. Foreboding stuff.

Indiana in 7.

east 27Miami v. Charlotte

Somehow, miraculously, mercifully, we don’t have to plod through an Indiana-Charlotte series. I’m certain His Eminence Adam Silver is still thanking God, prostrated in a corner somewhere reciting his bajillionth Hail Mary.

Of course Miami’s going to win this one. BUT. The point guard and center positions are still their weak links, and Charlotte’s strongest. Kemba Walker can moonwalk all over Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.

I don’t buy the Chris-Bosh-is-a-center-now snake oil Spoelstra’s been peddling for awhile, and Al Jefferson is a maestro on the low block, averaging just a tick over 25 pts and 15 reb against the Fiery Balls. Most likely, they’ll try the Bosh thing, see it isn’t working, then bring out the big swinging, um, guns.

HOLY SHIT GUYS, GREG ODEN IS PROBABLY GONNA PLAY IN HIS FIRST PLAYOFF GAME EVER! Watching him will be a weird combination of pent-up joy and anxious anticipation of when his femur will crumble into dust. Fuck it. 20-17-4.5. I’m calling it. Your NBA Finals MVP, ladies and gentlemen, Greg Oden!

Miami in 5.

eaast 36Toronto v. Brooklyn

The big international mystery. This may prove to be the most entertaining, or the most uninspired of the first round matchups. Wait I forgot, the Bobcats are in this and they’re playing the back-to-back-champions.

Before we go any further, I’d like to point out that my Phoenix Super-Suns-ics (why are they my Super-Suns-ics? I promise I’ll get to it once I have fully processed my grief) had the same 48-win record as the third-seed in the East, but those guys will be watching these games from home. His Eminence Adam Silver, please fix.

This is a good team matchup. Both teams are deliberate on offense (78-82 fga/gm), team-defense minded (7th and 11th in oppg) and have individual players worth watching if for the entertainment value alone (PSYCHO T ALERT!). Both Toronto and Brooklyn are coming into the playoffs bringing the mojo. The Raps have won 9 of their last 12, while the Nets are coming of a 12-4 March. Brooklyn plays much better at home, so if they can snag one in in Oh, Canada, it’s upset city in BK.

Kevin Garnet is back, and it’s the playoffs. He’s liable to do some crazy shit. I’m pretty excited to see him guard Jonas “I’M OPEN, I’M OPEN, DAMMIT I’M OPEN” Valanciunas. KG thrives on  camping out in people’s domespace, and generaally being one of the scariest dudes in the NBA, and Jonas is, well, kinda pretty,  European and wide-eyed.

I mean really:

jonas v KG

Also at what point is Tyler Hansborogh aka Psycho T going to try too hard, only to realize it was against KG and have another one of these moments? They play four times in a row–at least! We might have more than one moment like this! Grab the popcorn kids!

Brooklyn in 6.

east 45Chicago v. Washington

Oddly, the Washington Wizards have made the playoffs—gotta love the Eastern Conference! Odder, Chicago lost the season series 1-2.

Washington runs and guns and is more athletic than Chicago, but there isn’t a a more tough-minded team, probably in the NBA, than the Bulls. The toughest challenge for them will be to contain the Wiz’s play makers John Wall and Bradley Beal. Combined, they averaged 34.4 pts, 11 ast, 7 reb, and 3.4 stls a game in the season series. It’s a tough duo to cover with the likes of Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin and Jimmy Butler. Only Butler has the foot-speed and on-ball tenacity to keep up with either of them.

The opportunity for Bulls Coach Thibodeau is at an all-time high. In shades of last year’s first round, Joakim Noah will have to summon his Samson strength to cut through the Wizards’ cast of lonely conjurers. Lots of WoW / peeing jokes to be made here. Homie don’t play dat dough.

Chicago in 7.


 

The ‘Uncanny,’ ‘Can they?’ Pacers

“[The “uncanny”] undoubtedly belongs to all that is terrible—to all that arouses dread and creeping horror; it is equally certain, too, that the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, so that it tends to coincide with whatever excites dread.” –Sigmund Freud

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Watching the Pacers has been an exercise in exciting dread. They’re tough. Meteoric. The Dream team 2.0. They’re soft. Don’t have it. Toothless. They’re the best. Paul George has arrived. The Pacers are losing it. Floundering. A letdown. Unfocused. Ill-prepared.

Navigating the Indiana Pacers’ last ten months on the internet resembles something like freshman orientation—a self-conceived eminence, an ill-fated air of superiority, the necessary fall, even a pregnancy scare or, at least, rumors of one.

With cadres of internet universes dedicated to the voyeuristic exploits of the Indiana Pacers (not to mention the 29 other teams and the National Basketball Association’s, you know, corporate-industrial complex telling you how to feel and what to buy, man), it comes as no surprise to anyone that competing narratives exist. That story has been writ large, and is by now the norm.

The taste of metal in the back of my mouth that sometimes accompanies watching Pacers games, however, doesn’t arise as a result of the outside noise, but what’s unfolding inside the lines. What makes them truly uncanny, frightening and dreadful (not the-Bucks-taking-the-court-bad-basketball kind of dread, but the profound-starts-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach-Insidiousssss-creeps-up-invokes-night-sweats-and-the-experience-of-approaching-death-hey-Herb-Kohl-is-here-too kind of dread) is that both their brilliance and debacling exist in the same sphere; as a result, when they win games triumphantly, like their last one over OKC, it feels right—yet strange because it’s the same team that sat its starters previously, slept-walked to a two-point victory over said hapless Bucks and got thumped by Clevelend, THE CURSELIERS EVERYBODY!, two weeks prior.

Barring major changes in personnel, NBA teams aren’t supposed to experience such violent swings  in such a relatively short time.

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David West: Played strong POWER Forward basketball on 9 for 11 shooting. The consummate professional. The embodiment of this teams aspirations. He acts tough so that his teammates can get tough. Doles out wisdom on a team in desperate need of it. Of the Pacers’ ascension and subsequent poopiness:

“I don’t think we handled success the right way. As a group we didn’t feel like we had to earn it.” -David West

He flexes his pecs. He flashes his teeth. It’s cool. Histrionics as fuel.

Lance Stephenson: His fifth triple double (17 pts, 11 ast, 10 reb) to lead the league this season. Histrionics as adornment. One of the most talented players in the NBA. He is. Lightning in a bottle. Can provide enough of a charge to lift a team above its potential—in doses—but that same electric energy can and sometimes does cause raging wildfires. His ceiling: a modern-day Oscar Robinson without quite the scoring punch. His floor: JR Smith. So there’s that.

Roy Hibbert: Anchor on defense. 0 for 7 against OKC, despite good looks. He’s a black hole on offense at times. His sheer defensive presence though makes it hard put the turbulence at Hibbert’s concrete mixing truck feet. He is, however, absolutely responsible for the biggest ironic quote of the year:

“Some selfish dudes in here. I’m tired of talking about it. We’ve been talking about it for a month.” -Roy Hibbert

Well, we’ll probably be talking about it for another month. And if it’s an early playoff exit, for another 6 months. YAY!

George Hill: 3-2-0-0-0-0. Will the real George Hill please stand up? At least one of those 0s were for turnovers.

Paul George: Scored and rebounded well; 20-12 against OKC. As for the last three months, I can’t do better than the juxtaposition of these two graphics:

pg wings

AND…

The Bench: The B-line-up looked exceptional Sunday. Against every bench-heavy unit in the East playoffs, I’ll take C.J. Watson-Evan Turner-Paul George/Lance Stephenson-Luis Scola-Ian Mahinmi. The return of Watson is critical (20 points on 4/7 3fg), as a secondary, sometimes primary scoring option for this unit. If Watson continues to splash, it frees up ET to do what he does best—run and gun facilitating. The Scola-Mahinmi duo is a sieve on defense. But between Scola’s IQ and Mahinmi’s bouncability, they make a surprisingly competent high-low-post pairing.

I like the natural fit of this line up. They took it to OKC, and were responsible for the first “Ok, the Pacers have got this” moment after back-to-back Turner to Watson buckets.

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I meant to only touch on the key personnel, but when you’re “superstar”-less, everyone becomes important. When everyone becomes important, no one can take a night off. When more than one player takes a night off or a few weeks off, you get LKSALDFA;MBAKLUIW;ALKVM;AS a lack of coherence. When an untested team faces a lack of coherence, they question themselves. When a team questions themselves, they can’t win.

Basketball is so much about confidence—not just individually but in the team you have around you. NBA seasons are long. Intensity is required, desired and often coerced out of players just to win games.

Maybe the Pacers don’t have it. Maybe they do. Certainly, Pablo Torre, et al. were too quick to compare them to MJ and the greatest team 1996 in the history of the universe ever Bulls to exist in all times—no matter how loosely. Maybe they’ll use tonight’s game against the Magic to tune up and get right for a deep playoff run. Maybe they’ll take a collective dump on the court and hit up Disney World.

They might find a way to do both and that’s what’s so exhilaratingly frightening about them!

They’re an acid trip, and I can’t believe I’ve spent the last 80 consecutive hours thinking / plunging into sortable stats on this. This is all I have to show for it?  Man I need a new hobby.

I better post this before the Pacers mess everything up for me.

That’s right. It’s their fault.

 

Letters. Factors. Mike Zunino and why he is a player to watch moving forward

Last night the Mariners decided to do some really un-Mariners things and shake up all our increasingly pessimistic worldviews with a nice little game. Admittedly we benefited from the Rangers booting the ball around a bit in the field, but regardless anytime the Mariners are even in a position to take advantage of a team’s mistakes it is still something that qualifies as being fairly un-Mariners-like and this is no exception.

There are multiple, un-terrible storylines that can be derived from last night’s game. Some of those storylines even lend themselves to narrative leads about boats and Cuba and the steely-eyed will of a young man struggling to achieve his dream, struggling even…to survive!

Fuck that though.

I want to talk about a top 3 overall draft pick from Florida! I want to talk about Mike Zunino!

Yum!

Let’s start first with a hilarious tweet from Jeff Sullivan, formerly of Lookout Landing web-fame and un-formerly contributor to both USS Mariner and Fangraphs.

Mike Zunino tweet

As much as I am not typically disposed towards using slash lines for player evaluation, this one is so odd and hilarious and telling that it is worthy of inclusion. More or less, what this slash line tells us is that Zunino is playing exactly as he looks to be playing: unbelievably shitty most of the time until he stumbles drunkenly into a baseball at which point in time one is inclined to lean their head back and think, “This guy was drafted No. 3 overall, once.”

Zunino is a player who we have seen experience wild fluctuations in effectiveness over a reasonably small sample size.

He was rushed aggressively to the Majors, after which it was exposed that there are holes in his swing (several, in fact) that need to be addressed if he is to get on base with any degree of consistency in this league.

Counter to that negative evaluation is his extremely respectable work behind the plate, where he has proven to be a far better defensive catcher than any Mariner in recent memory whose name doesn’t rhyme with Fran Frillson.

I will avoid, for now, using pitch-framing numbers for Z. at this point. The sample size from this season is so small that any such numbers could be wickedly skewed by circumstance, umpires, etc. even more so than these numbers already are. I will have to, in the meantime, rely on scouting reports and the eye test, which Zunino consistently passes with flying colors.

Mike clearly is a mature guy who handles his business and provides great defense at a premium defensive position. Oftentimes the best judge of a catcher are the opinions of the pitchers he works with. Felix loves Zunino. Felix is the King. Zunino is his queen. Queens are the most flexible pieces on a chessboard. Catchers have to squat for a couple hours during a game. Illuminati.

The defensive qualities being what they are– what really separates Zunino from his peers is his raw talent, particularly when it comes to the bat.

Mike Zunino’s swing isn’t particularly sexy. It reminds me a lot of Brett Boone’s steroid-hack, intended to convert as much corned beef into bat-speed as humanly possible and do so based on educated guesses at where the baseball probably is. This is obviously not an exact science and has been exposed as such. But, that isn’t to say there is no value in this approach, if at least Z. shows some willingness to improve his strike zone recognition as he matures. The dude is only 23 years old.

Let’s talk for a second about x-factors.

I only trust people after seeing a quarter of the surface area of their throats. Dude on the left babysits my kids. Dude on the right is my secret keeper.

Referring to professional athletes as X-factors is often the faculty of concussion-stricken NFL analysts talking about Darren Sproles. It can function as an excuse to elevate a player with a unique and limited skillset to a position of great supposed importance in order to sidestep boring people by talking only about those players who would almost certainly make a larger and more predictable impact.

X-factors are often discussed in the way they are because of their volatility. These are players that do one or two things extremely well. Boom or bust. Sometimes they suck, sometimes they suck much less.

The boom or bust label actually extends to the perception of the analyst as well. When an analyst proclaims some B-list player to be an x-factor he is taking a calculated gamble whose reward is an “I told you so” to his colleagues and a hopefully meteoric rise in his audience’s perception of him as a clever, insightful guy. There is no such gain in applying that term to a Robinson Cano type. There’s little risk and less reward. An X-factor is a surprise, is volatile, much excite, wow.

I am legion

All that being said, this hearkens back to an earlier post in which I equated production from Cano with an improvement to the team’s baseline (read: expected) production. Robinson Cano comes into a game and consistently does what he does. If you had a team filled with players exactly like Cano, then that team would be consistently spectacular. Nobody has a team filled with players exactly like Cano. That would be fucking stupid.

What we have instead are teams whose secondary parts bridge the gap from the baseline provided by consistently outstanding performers to the peak that only comes as result of a larger, concerted effort.

I think Zunino represents this bridge-from-baseline-to-peak x-factor perfectly. Mike Zunino has had several forgettable games in a Mariners’ uniform. He has had a few forgettable games already this year. But Mike Zunino is a guy who will win a team games over the course of the year because of the surprising value he can add on a good night, as well as the fact that he has his own baseline of efficacy that is represented by his consistently solid defense.

Most catchers are not huge offensive contributors. When a catcher is an offensive threat, you end up with teams like the Giants. The Giants’ lineup has been pretty lame the past couple of years. They have, however, been pretty lame with the benefit of also having the best offensive catcher in baseball. A league average contributor in a corner outfield position is still an offensive contributor (the swing is upwards of .60 OPS, on average). A league average catcher can often be an offensive black hole. By virtue of this, a team whose catcher periodically explodes for effective, productive nights adds a good deal of value over what another team is throwing out there. A team with a consistently outstanding offensive catcher can win World Series Titles with some real bullshit filling out the rest of the lineup (read: hunterfuckingpence)

Did somebody say, kids?!

Last night, Mike Zunino crushed a HR to deep center to snap a scoreless streak for the Mariners which had become longer than I care to recall or count. His counterpart, J.P. Arencibia, was 0 for 2 and was pulled from the game for a pinch-hitter. If Zunino sucks tomorrow, and Arencibia remains predictably meh, then it is a wash. If Zunino has another outstanding AB or 2 tomorrow then the Mariners are at a distinct advantage.

For those games where Zunino is a valuable contributor, you just added a bat at a position that your opponent is often lacking. While this won’t always be the case, with the odd Mauers and Poseys floating around, there is a good chance that there will be nights where Zunino’s offense is the bonus dragging the Mariners from victory to defeat.

The X-factor.

Or Z-factor.

I’ll go fuck myself now.

Mariners open game thread – 04/11/2014

Happy Felix day everybody.

For the first time this season, Felix Hernandez takes the mound at Safeco against the fucking A’s and Tommy Millone.

As it is Felix’s first game of the season, a special “Supreme Court” crowd has been marshalled. I myself will be in attendance, clad in a golden t-shirt trading the deed to my car for 3 Coors Light aluminum bottles. You know, the ones that are so fucking cold that you have to pry your frostbitten tongue out of the top like you were just performing cunnilingus on the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia .

Nightmare-zone

Felix has been absolutely dominant since giving up that dinger to Trout on opening night. He struck out 11 Angels in that outing. In his subsequent outing he proceeded in steamrolling the A’s to the cacophonous tune of what sounded suspiciously like a rape-whistle giveaway night, which, even if an accident speaks volumes to the differences between our two fair cities. Macklemore bobblehead night, here we come.

 

Mlb.com preview here.

Comment, share, and such.

 

Ode to the Old, Unheralded and Ollie

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” –John Wooden

 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

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At the start of any pick-up game, there’s a certain deference afforded to the most grizzled and greyed ballers. Cut from years of asphalt-pounding and hardwood-hounding, he purports himself with a Zen-like ease. His aura is easy to spot. He’s usually sporting a now-irrelevant pop culture shirt—cutoffs—that outdates half the players on the court, a model of Converse sneakers no longer in production and always multiple braces on any assortment of joints.

(This one’s for him.)

During warm-up shots, no one imagines that he could ever be the best player on the court. Still, everyone remains wary. As if the force of his sheer age had already bent the outcome of the games in his favor.

Naturally, as games wear on, roles are extemporaneously defined. Cream rises. Mediocrity sinks. He—neither oil nor water—buoys. Et cetera, et cetera.

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In the current era of analytics-driven free agent and rookie signings, one of Sam Presti’s most important moves for the Oklahoma City Supersonics was signing then 36 year old veteran point guard Kevin Ollie. Yes, that Kevin Ollie.

That Kevin Ollie who spent the first two years of his professional basketball career in the CBA. That Kevin Ollie who bounced around 12 teams in 13 seasons. That Kevin Ollie who averaged an unimpressive 3.8 points and 2.3 assists in 15.6 minutes per game over the course of his illustrious career. That Kevin Ollie that coached his ass off and led his Hungry Huskies on a historic NCAA title run this past Monday over Sith Coach Calipari and his Wistful Wildcats.

Few have led as storied and unheralded a career as Kevin Ollie. From side-kick status and obscurity, Ollie has ascended, seemingly meteorically, to the highest order of the basketball universe. How did a point guard who could have easily never made it to the NBA—whose greatest asset was due entirely to his longevity—arrive at the pinnacle of pro sports?

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Experience wins. Not just games but titles. It is the reason San Antonio came a Jesus Shuttlesworth dagger away from winning it all last year. Dallas beat the Heat in 2011 because of it. And though their playoff run was underwhelming, the oldest team in NBA history (32.7) posted a 54-win season last year.

Look at the six oldest teams in the NBA at the start of the season (per HispanosNBA):

ages2

Each of these teams is making the playoffs. Even more telling, all of these teams are either contenders or very undesirable matchups. Their tenacity, teamwork and willingness to help defend cover up what weaknesses they do have. With the exception of Brooklyn (which, as a team, has had the least amount of time to gel), all have established cultures of expectations—each a variation on the sum being greater than their parts.

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It’s probably a little misguided to lay the Oklahoma City Supersonics’ success entirely at Ollie’s feet. It probably has more to do with The Other Kevin’s ridiculous 32 points per game average this season, or Russell Westbrook’s improbable transformation from UCLA backup to a top-10 NBA player on both sides of the court.

Still, in an interview with Bill Simmons back in February, Kevin Durant cited Ollie’s influence as laying the foundation for his and the OKC Supersonics’ success (it should also be noted that that the 1 year Ollie spent with OKC was the first year KD made it to the playoffs…):

“[Kevin Ollie] was a game-changer for us. He changed the whole culture, I think. He might not say it, but he changed the whole culture in Oklahoma City. Just his mind-set, his professionalism, every single day. And we all watched that and we wanted to be like that. It rubbed off on Russell, myself, Jeff Green, James Harden — and everyone that comes through now, that’s the standard you got to live up to, as a Thunder player, and it all started with Kevin Ollie.”

 

It all started with Kevin Ollie.

Ollie made it to the Elite 8 in 1995 and became a Sonic great with Ray Allen in 2003. He made it to the 2001 NBA Finals alongside, and later was playoff-stymied with Allen Iverson. In 2003, the Cleveland Curseliers signed Ollie to his first major contract—nearly $2.5 million (per Basketball-Reference.com)—for the expressed purpose of teaching newly-minted rookie Lebron James how to be a professional. Add Andre Iguodala’s first few seasons with the 76ers and a year with Kevin Love in Minnesota before his swan song with Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Serge Ibaka, and suddenly you have Ollie intersecting with 9 of the 20-25 best players in the last two decades—mostly in the formative years of their careers.

No basketball head can say it with a straight face. Kevin Durant alluded to it. But Kevin Ollie just might be one the most influential basketball players of the past 20 years.

»«

While the everyday fan might not see it, the GMs and coaches in the NBA recognize the value of veteran leadership. Code words: glue guys, an important voice and (my personal favorite) locker room presence.

This year’s trade deadline was roundly seen as uninspired. It was.

Lost in the fury of the silence though were important moves by the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors to snag Andre Miller and Steve Blake, respectively. Miller is 38. Blake is 34. Look at the winning percentage disparities before and after the trades were made:

ode to the old_was gs pre post trade

Both teams certainly needed to bolster their benches and upgrade their unfortunate backup point guard situation. Miller and Blake solve those problems. They aren’t household names by any stretch of the imagination, but both are savvy, play within themselves, aren’t matadors on defense and manage games exceptionally well. Most importantly, their locker room presence will provide stability to two young teams come playoff time.

«»

Old man game it’s called. Old man game is not age specific. Old man game is not spectacular. Old man game doesn’t even require any real athleticism. Old man game relies on court awareness, aims to minimize mental lapses and takes nothing off the table. Though practitioners of the old man game excel at nothing, they have the most coveted of skills in all the sports realms—the intangibles.

Sure they might try hard, pass the ball well, have good hand-eye coordination or even shoot the midrange jumper at a shockingly high percentage, but the precise source of his knack for basketball is undefined. If anything, it is the irregular confluence of that player’s unique skills—or lack thereof.

Basketball is a continuum of interdependent events with each player’s actions and reactions—a screen, a cut, staying out in the corner—affecting floor-spacing and the way opponents defend. The old, the unheralded, Kevin Ollie and others like him know that each possession is an unfolding of those events and know how to define and exist within their role as actors within each event. Perhaps most critically, they understand that the manipulation of those events happen on a plane far above the hardwood.

The Location of Optimism in Relation to Bad Things. Mariners.

In light of what has been a hot or at the very least not tepid or cold start to the season, Mariners fans have been given a rare opportunity to opine positively about the team’s future. Safeco sold out its home opener, the young hitters look to be figuring it out, the pitching has been largely great, and Robbie Cano is batting around .400.

For the young, the exuberant, the uninitiated; the dawn of the Mariner’s bright future seems to be peeking over the horizon. Yet, for those of us who have lived and died* with the Mariners over the past decade or so, it is hard to yield to optimism in the face of the inescapable sense of impending doom that we have been trained, in a Pavlovian fashion, to expect year in and year out.

Yet, even tempered with the pessimistic expectation of catastrophic regression, it is hard to not get wrapped up in the excitement of this young Mariners team that has, objectively, been playing good baseball. Further, it is hard not to extrapolate this excitement into optimism given that the Mariners young, volatile team is in fact capable of sustaining this level of play. They are. Really. They simply haven’t done it yet. All prospects sans Trout experience bumps in the road like this. These young players have had their bright futures dimmed and their confidence tested. Is it so hard to imagine that, having slogged through brief successes and dismal failures over the past 3 years, that these guys may have emerged on the other side as productive major leaguers just entering their prime years?

I like to think the thesis implying that the Mariners most recent wave of prospects simply were not as good as expected is an incorrect one.

Perhaps instead, the more accurate thesis is that these prospects were held under a microscope as a result of the teams’ failure and were put in a position where their growing pains would translate to a larger organizational pain given a lack of other options.

While other teams could suffer through a prospect learning on the job, the Mariners simply fielded too many prospects with too many simultaneous growing pains to experience anything less than an Operation-esque red buzzer firing off like a police siren for the better part of a decade.

I want to think that this is the case. I want to think this because I love this team.

I love watching Abraham Almonte sprint around like a raver in her PLUR-throes.

I love watching Dustin Ackley’s cold lifeless eyes as he drills a fastball on the outside corner for a double.

I love imagining what sort of wildlife could eek out a comfortable existence in Ackley’s beard.

I even like watching Logan Morrison continuously commit public relations suicide on twitter.

I want want want to allow the good feelings of this early season stretch to exist on some separate plane of existence than the Mariners teams I have watched in the past. I want to do this because I know that I have been able to successfully delude myself into thinking this team could be good within the past decade. This has always seemed a disappointing fiction and one revealed as such very early in the season.

Imagine a whitecap in your mind. The individual parts are themselves volatile, chaotic, and without uniform purpose or motion when examined too closely as individual strains, strands of water spread out into drops before crashing down again, frothing back into the greater whole. Despite this relative lack of cohesion, when your mind’s eye then zooms back to the holistic picture, one sees that despite the individual chaos, volatility and seeming lack of direction, there is in fact a cohesive forward momentum. This momentum exists separately and outside of the individual strands of water within the larger whitecap, and yet governs those strand’s forward motion and is, in a sense, comprised of them. It is not the individual motion of the edge (the thing that governs the frothiness of the whitecap) that governs its motion. It is instead the underlying swell that sustains forward momentum despite the uncertainty of the individual parts.

I am proposing that we think of this Mariners team and our fandom in this way.  We are all riding along with this whitecap. In the duration we spend at the edge of it, we shouldn’t even necessarily know that we are whitecaps to begin with. It is only after we have already broken and receded back into the massive blue expanse of mediocrity ever splashing at our heels that we realize the ebullient feeling of whitecap-ness was something transient. But transience does not imply that an experience is fictive.

This team is exciting now. The game is exciting to watch now. And if we can direct our eyes forward or even at our own feet we can avoid becoming estranged to the joy of the present moment. The Mariners were good last week. The Mariners are good today. The Mariners might suck endlessly every day for the rest of the year. If anything, doesn’t that provide an even greater impetus to enjoy these moments while they last?

It’s not a matter of the Mariners winning games in the future. It’s a matter of the Mariners having won games. This stretch of competence could end tomorrow. It wouldn’t be surprising if it did. That is the way things have gone in the past and this team probably isn’t improved enough to completely avoid negative regression.

Do not let that pessimistic stance govern your ability to enjoy this team. The Mariners are gifting us with good, winning, meaningful baseball. Appreciate it while it lasts–if not for the joy of being a fan then at least for the scarcity of these opportunities.

This has been a pretty sincere post. Since society has taught us to develop healthy aversions to any feelings or expressions of sincerity, this should be rectified.

Let’s play the LuckSwing drinking game! Take a shot every time you have to re-read a sentence. But wait! You have already read this entire post! Estimating is not allowed, so it looks like you better crack open a bottle of something cheap and start over! There are 57 sentences in this post by my count. Shit, now there are 59!!! If you existed, reader, you would be so drunk right now. Unhealthily so.

You should consider getting help!

*Mostly just died, over and over, in a kind of samsara-esque vortex of endless, purgatorial existence. Honestly, being a Mariners fan is about as good a validating analogue to Buddha’s notion of a cyclical existence of suffering as I have ever witnessed firsthand.

Planes, Smoakamotives and Tyrese Gibson: The Justin Smoak Story

I have a theory regarding semi-trucks. At the beginning of your life you are allotted a certain amount of time. This time represents how long you are allowed to drive, on a two lane highway, immediately next to a semi-truck. This time is never restored but is rather constantly depreciating every second you spend parallel to one of those fucking things.

It doesn’t matter exactly what that time is but it does not vary between individuals. For our purposes, let us assume that the time in question is 1 hour.

Every second counts as two if it is dark outside

Three, if it is snowing.

Four, if you have to sneeze.

Once your allotted time has expired you will die in a fiery explosion. Not a second will be wasted. The second this time is up you are good and thoroughly fucked. Paul Walker (in his films alone) spent a lot of time driving next to Semi-trucks and trucks that are so similar to semi-trucks that they totally count as semi-trucks.

Let his untimely demise be a reminder to us all. 2 fast. 2 furious. 2 soon. :'(

The conclusion: don’t try to cheat the system – just haul ass to get by those sheet-metal behemoths of death while wasting as little of your time as possible. It’s not a matter of where you are but WHEN you are. Starring Justin Timberlake and the guy from all of the Christopher Nolan movies.

Enter Justin Smoak. The Smoakamotive. Certainly a viable comparison to a semi-truck. Would you want to share the road with this?

What if I told you this guy was driving?

I bet Justin Smoak has never even driven a train. Is “drive” even the right word to associate with trains? Uncertainty abounds, change lanes or die.

Justin Smoak has managed to hang around the Mariner’s organization for what seems like an eternity. Prior to Smoak’s acquisition, things weren’t exactly good at the 1st base position, but at the very least it seemed like there was a reasonable threshold established that, if not reached, would result in change.

This kind of thinking is good. While I do not espouse a philosophy of constant tinkering and impatience, I also think it is reasonable for an organization to expect some modicum of improvement in its prospects or consistent production from veteran players to deserve a long-term investment.

Russell Branyan had a good run. He then stopped being good and he was subsequently replaced. Richie Sexson was able to go up and do his best “Joaquin Phoenix in Signs” impression for a couple years, after which the Mariners told him to GTFO. Justin Smoak however, has been given regular minutes at First Base for 4 years.

4.

4 years of Justin Smoak in all of his glory. He has not had a year with a WAR greater than 1.4 (last year’s total) and he is playing at a position where offense is not only expected but demanded. To top it off, he is a below average defensive player and runs the bases like Jesus Montero in a ballpit at Chuckie Cheese.

As evidence for this theory, the Mariners brought in Michael Morse last year. Michael Morse proceeded in being rather terrible and useless. Michael Morse is no longer a Mariner.

Think of it this way, Michael Morse took a shit on your bathroom floor and left, never to be seen again. Justin Smoak has been farting in your bed for weeks. He also probably snores.

To bring it back to baseball, Russel Branyan’s last year with the Mariners was substantially better than any of the years we have experienced with Smoak and he was not brought back. What is the difference?

Potential. But how do we quantify potential? We know that at one point in time somebody, somewhere, thought highly of Justin Smoak, the prospect. He was supposed to be a country-strong 1st base prospect with an above average hit tool expected to hit for 30HR power and get on base consistently.

We have seen proven, over the course of 4 years of ineptitude, that these scouting reports were either exaggerated or simply incorrect. Prospects don’t always pan out. The only notable aspect of Justin Smoak’s game (which I actually DO appreciate) is that he seems to be the only player in a Mariners uniform capable of taking a walk. Beyond that, he seems to have warning track power and is allergic to driving in runs. I spend about 90% of Justin Smoak at-bats yelling “Wind!” at fly balls to right-center. I then subsequently slump into my 8 dollar bleacher seat, broken and defeated.

Do you guys remember trader Jack? The GM who went around slanging every Bill Bavasi pick-up for 30 a kilo without a second thought? That GM seemed to have a concept of the threshold to which I referred earlier. It seemed as though mediocrity coupled with souring potential would not be enough to hold down a roster spot- you would be summarily shipped away.

What I didn’t realize at the time, and what I didn’t believe (despite my dad’s now seemingly-prophetic hectoring via SMS) was that Jack Z was simply supplanting the old regime with the new. What I had initially interpreted as a noble crusade to acquire real talent and ship off the failed experiments of the prior regime became a trial in new souring experiments that were acquired with his name on the receipt and clung to desperately despite the clear ill-effects. All I ask for is an objective evaluation of talent that has nothing to do with the pride and egoism of the man who made the initial investment.

Conclusion: it is bad to draw up a trade for a prospective talent that does not, in any way, pan out. It is substantially worse to cling desperately to that no-talent in an attempt to redeem the initial decision and save face.

When I look at Justin Smoak and the imagined “logjam” at first base that is all that I see. You cannot have a logjam at a position that does not produce for your team. The log in front of the other two logs is a sucky log. A sucky log with warning track power that throws massive chaws.

The best-case scenario for the Mariners this year is to play LoMo and Hart at first and DH. While neither is a sure thing, Hart has proven to be a good major league hitter capable of producing runs. Morrison at least has injuries to blame for his precipitous drop in production and I think taking him from the outfield for good will go a long way towards rectifying his health issues. Having the two of them split duties at first takes the pressure off either to run in the outfield on balky knees and gives the Mariners the opportunity to populate the outfield with players who can adequately defend the position. Give Romero a shot. Give Nick Franklin a shot in the OF- let him become our Ben Zobrist of the future.

There is no foreseeable future in which I wouldn’t rather see Nick Franklin in the lineup than Justin Smoak and his presence in the lineup does not have to come at the cost of Miller’s being benched. I want both of my goofy middle infielders in the lineup and I want Cano there too. It is for this purpose that I stalk the Tacoma Rainier’s lineup card on a daily basis, searching for that “RF” next to Nick Franklin’s name.

I have been hurt too many times by Smoak to buy in to his recent resurgence. That being said, there is nothing I would like more than to see him succeed. I love the Mariners and will always be happy when any Mariner performs well. That being said, I have been jerked around by Smoak too often to think that his solid start is anything but a fluke preceding a disastrous regression to mediocrity.

Prove me wrong, Smoaky.

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