Mariners Beat Tigers As Carlos Peguero Refuses To Be As Bad As He By All Rights Ought To Be

Coming into the season, Carlos Peguero was barely on my radar. Like barely on it at all. I knew he was only 24, and I knew he was one of the stronger hitters in the system, but I couldn't ignore the numbers. 30% strikeouts with Wisconsin. 25% strikeouts with High Desert. 32% strikeouts repeating with High Desert. 32% strikeouts with West Tennessee. Strikeouts aren't everything, but Peguero both struck out all the time and rarely walked, and I never like those prospects. I like polished young hitters. I don't like aggressive, hacking young hitters, because I don't trust that they'll be able to survive against advanced competition.

So I didn't think about Peguero much, even after he opened some eyes in spring training with his power. He went to Tacoma and resumed striking out, and though he was a surprise recall when Justin Smoak went on the bereavement list, he returned to the minors having gone 2-for-11 with five whiffs, which didn't get my attention. I didn't expect that I'd be seeing much more of Peguero in the near future.

But then he came back. And then he kept playing. And then he got some hits. And now he's up to this batting line over nearly 100 trips to the plate:

.238/.299/.500

It's important to understand that Peguero has been platooned almost perfectly against right-handed pitchers. It's also important to understand that he has 25 strikeouts and four unintentional walks. Peguero has been among the most aggressive hitters in the league when he's played, and there's a reason his OBP is what it is.

But Peguero is producing. Nine of his 19 hits have gone for extra bases. Against Brad Penny tonight, Peguero stayed back on a 2-2 curve and ripped it into the gap for a triple. Later, again against Penny, Peguero ripped a low-inside 1-2 splitter just over the right field wall for a go-ahead homer. Carlos Peguero isn't consistent, and he'll never be considered consistent, but he's come out of nowhere to help this lineup score runs.

Is it going to continue? I don't know. Looking at the strikeout and walk numbers, the temptation is to say no. Looking at his platoon role, the temptation is to say yes. But you can see why the coaching staff likes having him around. It's easy to be cynical and say they're just being tricked by his power, but the coaches themselves say that Peguero is receptive to instruction and is showing improvement, and it's hard to disagree with them. Peguero does seem to be showing improvement. His swing rate is dropping, his contact rate is climbing, and his OPS is now nearly .800.

I still don't love players like Peguero. I never will. It's hard for me to trust them, and I still don't trust Peguero. But after seeing so many promising guys come up from the system and struggle, having Peguero emerge from the mist to have some success has been a breath of fresh air. He's certainly made me look foolish. He hasn't embarrassed himself, and I figured he'd probably embarrass himself.

Talking to Rob Neyer right after the game, he remarked that "Peguero's a lot of fun." He is. Don't miss out on it by freaking out over the Dustin Ackley situation. The team will find room for Ackley, and if Peguero's isn't the spot that he takes, it's because Peguero's been hitting. That's what we want. That helps the Mariners win baseball games.

Some Friday night bullet holes:

  • You had to figure that Erik Bedard might labor a little bit after throwing 111 pitches his last time out, and sure enough, he had to fight to get through five innings. But in those five innings, he only allowed six baserunners and two runs while striking out six, and he was facing one of baseball's better lineups against left-handed pitchers. Though Bedard left the bullpen to pick up four frames, he did a fine job.

    I noticed that it felt like Bedard was taking a really long time to work, as it so often does. Comparing his PITCHfx pace to Doug Fister's shows a difference of four seconds. Comparing his PITCHfx pace to Michael Pineda's shows a difference of three seconds. That really doesn't seem like very much. But then, Bedard's average plate appearance lasts 4.0 pitches. For Fister, it's 3.7, and for Pineda, it's 3.8. Actually wait, that really doesn't seem like very much either. It is amazing how sensitive we are to very slight variations in time.

  • In Bedard's first four starts, he allowed seven home runs, and it felt like every fly ball was a threat to leave the yard. In Bedard's next seven starts, he allowed one home run, and it felt like few of his fly balls were threats to leave the yard. Today, in the bottom of the fourth, he allowed a home run to Victor Martinez. It came on a low-away fastball, and Martinez basically poked it the other way, just over the fence. Home run rate is so unstable, and dependent on so much luck.

  • I know everybody laughs at the name "Charlie Furbush," but for me it's like Johnny Dickshot and Rusty Kuntz. It's too obviously dirty to be humorously dirty. Now Jon Coutlangus, there's a more subtle dirty name worthy of titters.

  • With men on the corners and one out in the top of the fifth, Brendan Ryan grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Instead of slamming his helmet down like some players do, or jogging straight to the dugout like other players do, Ryan got down in a squat behind first base and stayed there, motionless, for several seconds. Ryan wants to win so badly that I'm glad he's here this year instead of last year, because if he were here last year I'm not sure he'd be here this year, if you know what I mean.

  • Chris Ray over his last eight appearances: 11 innings, 2 walks, 11 strikeouts, 0 runs. Of his 152 pitches, 102 have been strikes, and batters have swung through 20 of them. Chris Ray is looking like the guy the front office was hoping for when they signed him, instead of looking like Giovanni Carrara like he did for the first month. I'm not buying that Ray is suddenly this good, but he doesn't have to be. Even something less than this good makes for a useful reliever, and it would appear that Chris Ray is a useful reliever. This is a welcome turn of events, given the simultaneous Jamey Wright turn of events.

  • In the bottom of the eighth of a 3-2 game, with two outs and a runner on third, David Pauley got ahead of Brennan Boesch 0-2, and Chris Gimenez called for a breaking ball in the dirt. Boesch swung through it and Gimenez blocked it, making Gimenez look like a daring genius. Of course, had the ball gotten away, Gimenez would've looked like a complete tool, but when you're a backup catcher, you need to go big or go home. You need to find some way to draw positive attention, and Gimenez did it.

  • The first pitch that Brandon League threw to Miguel Cabrera to lead off the bottom of the ninth was a devastating splitter that Cabrera cut on and missed. League wound up dismissing Cabrera on three pitches. He also then started Victor Martinez with a splitter, and Jhonny Peralta with a slider. In his final at bat, he got ahead of Ramon Santiago 0-2 and got him to ground out harmlessly on a fastball. League and Gimenez had a great plan, and League navigated his way through a tough part of the order.

  • It's interesting how committed Eric Wedge is to his days off. Today was a day off for Ichiro. It remained a day off for Ichiro after the right-handed and amazing Al Alburquerque intentionally walked Peguero to face Greg Halman with two on and two out in the ninth inning of a 3-2 game. And it remained a day off for Ichiro in the bottom of the ninth, with Peguero patrolling right field. Wedge knowingly reduced his team's chances of winning today for the sake of keeping Ichiro sitting down, and while I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, it's an unusual thing.

    Mind you, I don't know what a day off is supposed to accomplish, especially considering that Ichiro spent a lot of the game working out anyway. But Wedge thinks these things are important, so, all right.

Michael Pineda and Max Scherzer go at it tomorrow. The Mariners and the Rangers have had the same game result for six consecutive days. It would be nice to stop that. Or, it would not be nice to stop that.

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