Michael Saunders In Two Pictures

Today the Seattle Mariners will do literally zero work, like the lazy sons of bitches they are. Oh, you get a day in the middle of the week to spend with your families or explore a beautiful city? I'd love to have a day in the middle of the week I could spend exploring my own beautiful city, but I have something called a job. Professional athletes have it so easy.

The Mariners are coming off a successful road trip, so lots of positive material has been written about them. And Michael Saunders is coming off an otherworldly road trip, so lots of positive material has been written about him specifically. At USS Mariner, Dave said his piece, and others have done the same. I am also putting up a post about Michael Saunders, even though I've written posts about Michael Saunders, because that seems like the thing to do, and because I don't feel like writing more about Hector Noesi yet.

Last season, Saunders batted 179 times for the Mariners. He wasn't supposed to, but Franklin Gutierrez ran into more trouble, and Saunders was forced into action. It wouldn't be fair to say he hit like you or I would've hit, unless you are Kip Wells, in which case he hit exactly like that. I don't need to remind you that Saunders was a disaster, and when we heard over the offseason that he was revamping his swing with Josh Bard's brother, we paid it little mind. If Josh Bard's brother were all that, you'd think he would've done something for his brother.

It's June 7th now and Saunders has batted 217 times for the Mariners. He wasn't supposed to, but Franklin Gutierrez ran into more trouble, and Saunders was forced into action. Statistically, he's been the best hitter on the team, and the team hasn't been so bad at hitting that that's damning with faint praise. By adjusted OPS, Saunders has been 30 percent more productive than the league average.

The headline advertises that this post is Michael Saunders in two pictures. Very obviously, this post is also Michael Saunders in words. But here are those two pictures. Michael Saunders' spray chart from 2011, via Texas Leaguers:

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And the spray chart for 2012:

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Conspicuously not shown is that one long home run Saunders hit to center in Toronto. It's not shown because he hit it beyond the displayed dimensions.

Since the spring, you've been hearing that Saunders was showing better power up the middle and the other way, and we've seen it with our own eyes. This information isn't new information, but it is helpful to see it visualized like this. Saunders had nothing unless he was pulling the ball, and now he's doing what he can with the pitches he's being given.

I could show you more pictures if I wanted to, but I'm sticking with my headline that I wrote before really thinking about this post. Two more pictures would show Saunders' swing chart for 2011 and his swing chart for 2012. I'm not showing those, so you'll have to take my word when I say that Saunders hasn't been swinging at so many inside pitches, and has been swinging at more pitches over the outer half and past the outer half. Saunders' swing area has shifted away from him, presumably because now Saunders is capable of hitting pitches away from him. He couldn't do that before, so he tried to avoid swinging at those pitches unless he had to.

Saunders presents an interesting case for would-be evaluators of the Mariners' player development. On the one hand, Saunders has emerged at a relatively young age under the Mariners' purview. On the other hand, it seems Saunders had to go outside the organization to find the help he needed. We don't know how much Chris Chambliss has had to do with Saunders' productivity, but Josh Bard's brother was there at the start. Maybe the Mariners should be credited for allowing Saunders to seek out that instruction. I don't know, and this doesn't matter.

What matters is that Michael Saunders is a big-league baseball player, and not just a big-league baseball player because he's a player in the big leagues. Now he belongs, and he's a good defensive 25-year-old center fielder with at least a league-average bat. And he's left-handed, which should play well for the home ballpark. Michael Saunders is why we're fed fluff stories in spring about offseason adjustments and new routines. Most of the time, we see predictable results. Some of the time, we see results that hardly make sense. Compare how you think about Saunders now with how you thought about Saunders in February and recognize how extraordinary this all is.

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