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Let's All Feel A Little Better About Miguel Olivo Now

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Not the biggest disaster!
Not the biggest disaster!

We've been pretty critical of Miguel Olivo's play around here lately. I don't think that's much of a secret. It's not like he hasn't earned it. His OPS since the All-Star break is .471. His OPS since June 13th is .469. He hasn't homered since July 24th. He hasn't walked since June 26th, and he didn't even realize he drew that walk when it happened. Olivo has been a terrible hitter for a couple months now, pretty much since he hit that awesome crowd-pleasing home run against the Marlins, and his defense hasn't exactly canceled it out.

Where once I supported the Olivo contract, these days I'm feeling as down about him as I ever have, and I'm beginning to think that maybe those people who said he'd be a disaster were right. He isn't a good fit for Safeco Field. He isn't in any way capable of consistently reaching base. Too often, Olivo makes himself look like one of the easiest outs in the league, and he's hardly a gifted defender.

But there are disasters, and then there are disasters. And while I feel pretty bad about Olivo, I could feel a whole hell of a lot worse. Following are two 2011 batting lines. Quiz: which one belongs to Miguel Olivo, and which one belongs to Vernon Wells?

  • .215/.247/.363
  • .205/.236/.374

Answer: it doesn't matter, because they're both equally terrible. There's a little bit of power in each - Olivo has 14 home runs, while Wells has 17 - but there's zero ability to hit for average, and there's zero ability to get on base. Olivo has drawn an unintentional walk in 4.1% of his plate appearances. Wells has drawn an unintentional walk in 3.9% of his plate appearances.

You might argue that Wells gets a value boost for being an athletic defensive outfielder. Well for one thing, there's no compelling evidence that he's actually a good defender, and for another, Olivo's a catcher. Even though Olivo isn't a great catcher, he's got an enormous positional advantage. Outfielders are supposed to hit. Catchers, less so.

Olivo and Wells, to date, have been impossibly similar, in that they've been almost equivalently unproductive. They're both in the running to join an exclusive group of regulars and semi-regulars to finish a season with a sub-.240 OBP. They're both well into their 30s. And one of them is under contract for $7 million through next year, while one of them is under contract for $86 million through 2014.

This isn't binary. Players aren't either disasters or not disasters. There are shades of disastrousness, and while Olivo may be a disaster, he may not be, and even if he is, the commitment is small. On the scale of disastrousness, Miguel Olivo might rank a 3 or a 4. Vernon Wells might rank an 8 or a 9. The Vernon Wells situation is really, really bad.

Of course, Olivo is not the Mariners' biggest problem. The Mariners also still have Chone Figgins, who you might have forgotten about given his stint on the disabled list. Figgins is due $26 million through 2013 and owns a .484 OPS. That's awful. But again, Figgins might be a 6 on the scale. Maybe a 7. He's not Vernon Wells. Few players are.

It's important to keep these things in perspective. I think a good life lesson is to always remain aware of how much worse things could be. Remain aware of Vernon Wells.