Here we are, at what people consider to be the midpoint of the regular season, even though no team has played fewer than 83 games and some teams have played as many as 87 games. The regular season lasts for 162 games, and in case you're terrible, just absolutely terrible at simple math, 83 is more than half of 162. So we're beyond the midpoint of the regular season. But we're close enough to the midpoint, and we get away with referring to the pre-ASB and the post-ASB as the first half and the second half because this is sports and, whatever, sports. Sports aren't science, except that they kind of are exactly that.
Hereabouts, it's All-Star break tradition to pass out grades to all of the Mariners based on their first-half performances. It's a tradition devoid of significance, based entirely on consistency, but then most traditions are stupid when you actually think about them and you put up with them because you've always put up with them. They're like friends. You're friends with somebody because you've been friends with that person for years. You don't stop and reevaluate all of your friendships all of the time because you've got other shit to do. So you remain friends with people who you might not select to be new friends today. People change. Friends change. If you hadn't been friends with a friend of yours forever, you might not be friends now, but you have been, so you are.
This is always a complete and utter waste of everybody's time. I am a baseball blogger assigning pretty much arbitrary grades to baseball players who will never know about them. This whole act is pointless. With this hour, I could make a meaningful contribution to the world. With these five minutes, you could make a meaningful contribution to the world. I'm writing a baseball player report card, and you're reading it. When the Earth becomes unlivable, you'll be free to blame big business, but you'll also be at fault. Congratulations, you're not hurting the world. Are you helping it? Are you helping it enough? If you're reading this, no. No, you're not.
We should all move to Alaska and become sustainable fishermen. For the time being, player grades. Grades are based on performance relative to league performance, and don't really account for playing time because I don't care. The grades are also subjective, and I came up with them in two minutes, and if you disagree with any of them, you might consider paying less attention to these grades and more attention to your personal relationships which I can only imagine are actively deteriorating.
Dustin Ackley: D
When I did this a year ago, Ackley was new and I gave him an A. An A for Ackley! (I made the same joke last year.) (Is that a joke?) He was everything that we wanted him to be and more, and he was that right away. Last year he started out like Mike Trout has been playing this year. Obviously now things are different as Ackley has dropped to the level of the near-failures. A year ago, Ackley was fresh up from triple-A. Now, he might be on his way back to triple-A. It's possible that Ackley is method acting and that he's trying to see what it's like to be a bad player before he goes back to being a good player. Dustin Ackley does not strike me as a particularly talented actor.
Mike Carp: D-
Carp injured himself on one of his first defensive plays of the entire year, and at the break he owns a .157 average that's basically the lowest on the team. The only reason he's a D- instead of an F is because dingers! He hit some dingers! I have trouble failing a player who's hit dingers because for those moments they allowed me to forget I was watching the Mariners and pretend I was watching someone else.
Chone Figgins: F
Chone Figgins has dingers and I'm failing him. Don't really feel too bad about it. Figgins began the year at leadoff because the Mariners wanted to see if that would get his bat going, and right now he has a 50 OPS+, and last year he had a 40 OPS+, and adding those two numbers together yields a 90 OPS+, and an average OPS+ is a 100 OPS+. Having long since gotten over the idea of getting value out of Figgins, the Mariners are now punishing him by forcing him to remain with the Mariners. Who's laughing now? Exactly, no one.
Franklin Gutierrez: B+
Gutierrez came back from a long time off and was pretty good and then he got hit in the head by a pickoff throw that got by one of the most sure-handed first basemen in baseball. I'm not a believer in luck. Not at all, to the point where it actually irritates me when people act as if luck exists, and they either do or don't have it. It's nonsense and I can't stand ever setting foot within a casino. But if I had tickets to watch an archery competition, and I got to my seat, and I noticed Franklin Gutierrez was sitting one seat over, I would probably go home.
Remember when Ichiro was hitting line drives and looking like a moderately productive offensive outfielder? Remember when we were talking about him having success while slashing his groundball rate? On May 9 he had a .750 OPS, and since then he's posted a .573 OPS. Ichiro's groundball rate is still by far the lowest it's ever been, implying that he's changed his approach. The evidence suggests that it hasn't mattered. As more and more time passes, we're confronted more and more with the reality that Ichiro is human, and a human at an age where most humans are getting worse at physical skills. On the plus side, if Ichiro stays around this level, it'd be hard for the organization to justify a contract extension, right? haha, right? haha
John Jaso: A-
Jaso's been platooned so he probably deserves something in the B's, but aw hell let's give him a boost for being so clutch off the bench, because this report card needed an overachiever. Jaso has the approach that Jack Cust had as a Mariner in 2011, and the swing of someone a whole hell of a lot better than 2011 Jack Cust. Do you remember that Jack Cust was a Seattle Mariner last season? In 2012 he's hit 19 dingers with triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. 19 dingers, 66 walks, 108 strikeouts. Cust is basically having the same season he used to have when he was a prospect. Free Jack Cust! And probably Erubiel Durazo, wherever he is.
Munenori Kawasaki: F
Strictly from a performance perspective, 71 pitchers have batted at least 20 times so far this year, and 20 of them have posted a higher slugging percentage than Munenori Kawasaki. Remember that extra-base hit that he lined? That was the one. Kawasaki has hit worse than Figgins did a season ago, and while his defense and base-running haven't been disastrous, I don't think Kawasaki would belong on a talented, competitive team. Thankfully, that isn't a problem.
Alex Liddi: D
For a little time, Liddi was making more contact than usual, then he was making the same contact as usual, and that left him as Alex Liddi, and Alex Liddi isn't a major league baseball player. I mean, he was, for a while, and he was all dressed up in the uniform and everything, but the Mariners are to Major League Baseball as seat fillers are to the Oscars.
Jesus Montero: D+
Dustin Ackley's strength was supposed to be his strike-zone discipline, and that clearly needs work. Justin Smoak's strength was supposed to be his power, and that clearly needs work. Jesus Montero's strength was supposed to be his ability to hit to the opposite field, and that's been so far gone that the other day he was trying to hit to right field off of a tee in batting practice. It's not that you don't expect young players to go through rough spells, because almost all of them do, but one can't shake the feeling that if Jesus Montero were destined to be a star, he wouldn't look like what he looks like so often at the plate. Every single part of Montero's game needs work.
Miguel Olivo: D-
Miguel Olivo has a .219 OBP meaning that Miguel Olivo has a .781 (1-OBP). Some people like to refer to that as out percentage, and Miguel Olivo has made 78 percent outs. Of 155 regulars, only nine have a batting average lower than Olivo's on-base percentage. I can probably think of a few catchers I'd rather have teaching Jesus Montero everything they know.
Carlos Peguero: F
Carlos Peguero has attempted 19 swings and missed with 11 swings. Carlos Peguero isn't very good at offense, he isn't very good at defense, and he isn't very good at coming home in the middle of the night and finding his way to bed without waking everyone else. I'm just guessing, based on the way he moves around. Carlos Peguero is probably among the world's leading floorboard-squeakers, and I bet when he's washing his face and brushing his teeth he's just constantly knocking shit over.
Brendan Ryan: C-
Brendan Ryan has Miguel Olivo's OPS+, with Brendan Ryan's defense. I think that's worth a full extra letter. Probably more but if I gave Ryan anything better than a C- I bet people would freak out and I don't want to call attention to myself. I think Ryan is kind of like a protractor. It isn't a very versatile tool, and a protractor's not real good at, say, chopping vegetables, or cleaning the laundry, but as far as that one purpose is concerned, holy shit a protractor is perfect.
Michael Saunders: B+
I was flying back into Oregon this morning, and the visibility was spectacular. As we got closer to Portland, Mt. Jefferson came into view, with its rugged surrounding wilderness and deeply eroded features. Mt. Jefferson is considered by more than a few to be extinct, as it doesn't have a recent history of eruptive activity, and so it isn't very closely monitored, if it's even monitored at all. Maybe it should be, though. Maybe it should be.
Kyle Seager: B
It's tough to ignore Seager's recent slump, because Seager's recent slump is recent, but overall, he's been an average or above-average bat with fine defense at a challenging position. If Seager's slump and hot streak were reversed, you would feel very differently about him today even though his numbers would be the exact same. That doesn't make sense! Except that it actually does and we just don't know exactly how much sense. Some sense.
Justin Smoak: F
In April of last season, Smoak batted .284 with 14 walks and ten extra-base hits over 89 trips to the plate. He was 24 years old, showing everything he needed to show in order to be considered a certain part of the organization's long-term future. So far in 2012, he's hit at the same level as Brandon Crawford. If you aren't familiar with Brandon Crawford, now you're familiar with his offense. Justin Smoak is developing like a jug of old milk. At first you're like, great, milk! Then after a while you realize it's lost all of its milk-like characteristics.
Casper Wells: B+
Given what we know now, if the Mariners began 2013 with a Saunders/Gutierrez/Wells outfield, would you be upset? Let's presume that they also have some decent fourth outfielder for insurance purposes. Wells has power, he has defense, and he definitely has the arm for right field. Of course he's not perfect, because only John Jaso is perfect, but in Wells the Mariners might quietly be sitting on a decent everyday player. You know, like we figured at the time of the Doug Fister trade. How, on a team this bad at hitting, is Casper Wells underrated?