On Spring Surprises

  • One of the brightest stars so far - at least as far as the coaching staff is concerned - has been Chris Jakubauskas, a converted outfielder who toiled in the Indy Leagues before signing with the Mariners and pitching well in West Tennessee and Tacoma. He's become something of a sleeper to break camp with the M's based on his ability to throw strikes. The issue is that that's kind of all he does. Among 123 starters with at least 100 xOuts in the PCL last year, Jakubauskas' 65.8% strike rate was a full standard deviation above average, but his ability to induce groundballs was middle-of-the-pack and his 5.8% swinging strike rate came in 120th, between Joe Woerman and Tyler Lumsden. That's 5.8% against AAA competition, with a league average of 8.8%. That's bad.

    Jakubauskas throws enough strikes and has a good enough changeup to keep from embarrassing himself on a bigger stage, but realistically, there's nothing special about him, and his upside is far lower than that of many of our other bullpen candidates. He's a good story who just isn't good enough. Which might be for the best, since I'm already damn tired of hearing jokes about his name. It's long. We get it. You're more predictable than Friends.

  • Chris Shelton has 13 hits and three homers in 25 at bats so far this month, and is doing a wonderful job of securing a roster spot as the other half of the 1B platoon. Shelton was always the favorite, but unless he takes a nasty turn for the worse over these next couple weeks, at this point he's all but a guarantee. That's good news for ginger people. Don't be alarmed by Shelton's reverse platoon splits in the Majors - the samples are small, reverse platoon splits don't really exist, and he was normal in the minors. Going forward, we can say with near-absolute certainty that Shelton is a more productive bat against lefties than he is against righties. This platoon isn't going to light anyone's hair on fire with its awesomeness, but it ought to be solid.

  • All I'm going to say about Matt Tuiasosopo is that you better hope he's almost ready, since there's pretty much no way that Beltre re-signs after the season. It really is remarkable how well Tui has bounced back from his .185/.259/.218 stint in AA a few years ago. Say what you will about the many questionable operating philosophies of the Bill Bavasi administration, but the whole rush-prospects-until-they-fail thing seems to have worked out okay, all things considered.

  • Felix has yet to allow a run so far in the WBC, which is good. But he's walked six batters in 8.2 innings, which is bad. He only threw 57% fastballs against Puerto Rico the other day, which is good. Only 53% of those fastballs were strikes, which is bad.

  • Carlos Silva has only allowed one run in WBC play, but then Carlos Silva has thrown 11 innings against Italy and the Netherlands.

  • Jose Lopez, Endy Chavez, Ichiro, and Kenji Johjima are a combined 27-70 in the WBC with 13 extra-base hits. Ichiro's been the worst. Lopez has just been flipping out, with five doubles, two homers, and one single that he tried to stretch into a double (nearly succeeding). He also has three walks and zero strikeouts as part of a talented lineup. I don't know how much to read into this, if at all, but what I can say for sure is that this can't possibly be bad news. A Jose Lopez breakout season at the plate would be a godsend to a Mariners team that's right on the verge of making the AL West awfully interesting.

  • Of all the Mariner pitchers in camp, none have performed better than Randy Messenger. Which is pretty convincing evidence of why ST stats are retarded. But anyway, Messenger's a four-pitch righty with a straight fastball, and because his change isn't very good, he uses his curveball instead as his primary offspeed pitch to lefties. A contact guy who doesn't keep the ball on the ground, Messenger's only as good as his ability to stay in the zone, and while his 2008 was solid in that regard (in both the Majors and AAA), his strike-throwing track record is barely above average. It's interesting that his top PITCHf/x similary score is the doesn't-suck Ricky Nolasco. Messenger's a nobody reliever with 174.1 innings under his belt as a nobody reliever, and nothing he does this spring short of throwing 100 miles per hour somehow should be able to get him a roster spot. That he looks like a total douche can't be helping him either.
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