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Entries in Seattle Mariners (36)


Jaso, Olivo Polar Opposites

The Seattle Mariners couldn't buy a walk in 2011. The M's had the second-lowest rate of free passes taken (7.3 percent) among AL clubs and, in a related note, placed dead last in on-base percentage (.292) and runs scored (556). Seattle's newest acquisition, John Jaso, should provide the M's with some much-needed plate discipline. The lefty hitter, picked up from Tampa Bay for reliever Josh Lueke, couldn't be more different than the man he'll now platoon with, Miguel Olivo.

During his major league career, Jaso has swung at just 34 percent of the pitches seen. Only Luis Castillo, Nick Johnson, Bobby Abreu and Brett Gardner have pulled the trigger less often among hitters with 500+ plate appearances from 2008-2011. He has chased 20 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone, one of the lowest 20 rates among MLB hitters. Check out Jaso's swing rate by pitch location, compared to the league average. Unless it's high and tight, he's probably keeping the bat glued to his shoulder:

Jaso's swing rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

Average swing rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

The exception to Jaso's ultra-passive approach is two-strike situations. When the pitcher has him down to his last strike, he swings about 57 percent of the time. That's still below the 61 percent average in such situations, but not by a whole lot. And when he swings, he rarely comes up empty: Jaso has a 12 percent miss rate both in two-strike counts and overall, compared to the 20-21 percent MLB average in both situations.

By working deep counts and avoiding strikeouts, Jaso has walked more than he has whiffed (12.1 BB%, 11.4 K%). That has allowed him to get on base at a .340 clip and be a league-average hitter (101 wRC+) despite possessing little pop and posting a mid-.260s batting average on balls in play indicative of a slow-footed backstop. If you're holding off a bathroom stop or a beer run for a Jaso at-bat, you might be a while.

With Olivo, on the other hand, you'll be at the stall or sipping a Coors in no time. The righty batter has swung at about 57 percent of pitches seen since 2008. Pablo Sandoval, Delmon Young, Jake Fox, Vladimir Guerrero and Humberto Quintero are the only 500+ PA hitters to take a cut more often. And Olivo's 41 percent chase rate is surpassed by that of only Fox, Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pierzynski, Sandoval, Guerrero and Quintero. If it's anywhere near the dish, Olivo starts salivating:

Olivo's swing rate by pitch location, 2008-2011

With two strikes, Olivo has swung 68 percent of the time over the past four seasons. While Jaso avoids the Ks, Olivo has swung and missed 35 percent of the time in two-strike counts and 36 percent of the time overall.

With such a hack-happy approach, Olivo has struck out over six times as often as he has walked in recent years (4.4 BB%, 27.9 K%) and has a .283 OBP. His only redeeming feature at the plate is that he'll hit some moon shots in between all of those outs, making him a passable bat for the position (86 wRC+).

Assuming Jaso gets the bulk of the ABs, the trade with Tampa should work out pretty well. Jaso gives the M's a hitter with a with a clue at the plate and limits Olivo to a lefty-lashing role he's best suited for (he's got a career .277/.311/.487 line in 1,030 PA against lefties, compared to .229/.265/.395 in 2,535 PA against right-handers). Just don't expect Jaso and Olivo to share too many batting tips with each other.


Felix is good, he's just not a king this season

When a pitcher goes 13-12 one season and then 14-12 the next, you presume you are either dealing with a knuckleballer or a pretty average pitcher. You would be wrong in both cases when that pitcher is the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. Last season, King Felix had a groundbreaking season by virtue of his winning the Cy Young Award despite his .520 winning percentage. Yes, his 2.27 ERA was outstanding, but voters really started paying attention to stats such as WHIP (1.957), hits per 9 innings (7.0), and Quality Start percentage (88%).

This season, Felix is still pitching for the last-place Mariners, and his winning percentage has "leaped" to .538 but, Hernandez is not the dominant force he was last year. Truth be told there are many stats that are so close it's hard to see the reason why. His strikeout to walk ratio is the same 3.31. His strikeouts per 9 innings are actually up from 8.4 to 8.9. His WHIP is still a very good 1.173. And while he led the league last season with a 6.2 WAR, his 5.0 WAR is still good for seventh in the league this year.

For me, the biggest difference this season is in his batting average against which is still a .237 figure that other pitchers would envy, but it's up .025 from last season. The right hander is up against righties, .212 to to .236, and up against lefties, .213 to .238.

In terms of Felix's pitches, the biggest difference is in his use of his fastball and his changeup:

  • In 2010 - 25.0% of his pitches were fastballs and 15.9% were changeups
  • In 2011 - 17.1% of his pitches are fastballs and 22.0% are changeups

The differential is even larger against lefties:

  • In 2010 - 30.9% of his pitches against lefties were fastballs and 15.9% were changeups
  • In 2011 - 17.4% of his pitches against lefties are fastballs and 22.9% are changeups

Felix's fastball is not as effective this season

The difference for Felix in his fastball this season is significant as he is not busting that pitch inside and tying up batters, but is letting that fastball get to the fat part of the bat.

Here is the 2010 fastball against leftiesLefties hit .191 against the fastball in 2010.

The 2011 fastball against leftiesYou can see why lefties are hitting .295 against Felix's fastball this season as his location has spread all over the plate.

Felix's fastball against righties in 2010Righthanded batters were held to .154 in 2010.

Felix's fastball against righties in 2011Felix's numbers against righties are still a great .186 this season by any measure except when comparing him to last season.

When you look at Hernandez' release velocity, in both years  you see large red blobs on the heat map, so I don't think there is much difference in the speed of his fastball, but we can clearly see the story this year is placement and because of that, there's no reason to think that we won't see a repeat of 2010 next season.


Carp Inside and Out

Mike Carp found his power stroke in the majors in 2011, slugging .500 through 206 plate appearances this season.  Pitchers have worked the young slugger away:

Mike Carp, pitch frequency, 2011.While most of his power comes inside, he's slugged across the strike zone:

Mike Carp, in play slugging percentage, 2011.Pitching Carp away hasn't worked that well, since Mike is willing to drive outside pitches the other way.  When the pitch is inside, he pulls the ball for home runs:

Mike Carp, pitch frequency on home runs, 2011.When he goes the other way, he tends to hit doubles:

Mike Carp, pitch frequency on doubles, 2011.Instead of trying to pull everything, Carp is willing to go with a pitch.  He strong enough to be able to drive the ball the other way.  He's not getting the lift to hit them out that often, but doubles can do a lot of damage, scoring runners from first base and putting the batter in scoring position.  He's supplying the Mariners with needed power.

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