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Big Ups, Miguel Olivo

Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

First thing: right now, you are probably thinking about playoff baseball, regular-season football, or something else that doesn't involve the Seattle Mariners. On the off chance you are thinking about the Seattle Mariners, you probably aren't thinking about Miguel Olivo. But here I am, writing about Miguel Olivo on a Sunday afternoon in the offseason! This is how you know that this is my blog and not yours.

Second thing: this offseason, the Mariners might so searching for someone kind of like Olivo. They know they have John Jaso at catcher, they know they might have Jesus Montero at catcher, and they know that Mike Zunino is getting closer, but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the Mariners to find some veteran righty in case Zunino isn't ready out of camp. Olivo's contract includes a $3 million 2013 club option. Odds are the Mariners aren't going to want to commit three million dollars to Miguel Olivo next year, so odds are Miguel Olivo's time with the Mariners is up. Which unofficially allows me to write up the rest of this post!

Olivo, you'll remember, had two separate stints with the Mariners. He joined them in 2004 as a catcher most intriguing, then he re-joined them in early 2011 as a catcher less intriguing. If you have watched every single inning of Mariners baseball since June 2004, you have seen Miguel Olivo bat as a Mariner 1,160 times. Plus times in the preseason, maybe, but quit complicating things.

More than a thousand Miguel Olivo plate appearances in a Mariners uniform. Well more than a thousand, at that. For the sake of comparison, Michael Saunders has 1,188 Mariners plate appearances. Justin Smoak has 1,146, Dustin Ackley has 1,044, and Chone Figgins has 1,209. What did Olivo manage to hit in that time? He batted .210, with a .239 OBP and a .370 slugging percentage. He posted a 69 OPS+, which is the worst OPS+ he's posted for any of his six teams. More than three-quarters of the time that Olivo batted as a Mariner, he made an out. Thank God he at least played competent defense.


More to the point, though: over all that time as a Mariner, Olivo hit 42 home runs. That's not a terrible total, considering. And over all that time as a Mariner, Olivo drew 41 walks. Three of those walks, for whatever it's worth, were intentional. As a Mariner, Miguel Olivo racked up more home runs than bases on balls.

Throughout Mariners history, 101 different players have hit at least ten total home runs, and 103 different players have batted at least 500 times. Out of all of them, the only players to rack up more home runs than bases on balls are Miguel Olivo and Todd Cruz (23 to 19). Cruz was a Mariner in 1982-1983, and a comparison:

Olivo, Mariners: .210/.239/.370
Cruz, Mariners: .218/.238/.360

Cruz was a shortstop good for -0.2 WAR. Olivo was a catcher good for -0.9 WAR, and these are going by the numbers available at Baseball-Reference. Olivo was paid some millions of dollars for his services; according to Baseball-Reference, Cruz was paid "$", which I interpret as meaning "one dollar", which seems about right. Jose Cruz, incidentally, had 12 homers and 13 walks. Even Carlos Peguero has eight and nine.

It's incredibly rare for a player to end up with more home runs than walks over a significant or semi-significant period of time. Miguel Olivo, as a Mariner, had more home runs than walks. Miguel Olivo, as a Royal, had more home runs than walks. Miguel Olivo, as a Marlin, had more home runs than walks. Miguel Olivo, as a Padre, had as many home runs as walks. For his career, Olivo's at 141 and 152, and 19 of those walks have been intentional, meaning Olivo has more total home runs than walks if you strip the intentionals out. Miguel Olivo is 34 years old and has been playing in the majors for more than a decade.

This makes it all the more incredible that Olivo drew three unintentional walks in one game a few weeks ago against the Orioles. I don't care that the game went to 18 innings -- it didn't go to 1,800 innings. I'll never forget the time Olivo homered into the King's Court when they were chanting his name in 2011, but I'll also never forget the time in 2011 he drew a walk and didn't know it. There was beauty in that instance, beauty I haven't been able to capture in words, but I'm not finished trying. This was perhaps the most Miguel Olivo.


Olivo hit that home run into the Court on June 24. Olivo drew that walk on June 26, in the same series against the Marlins. It was his first walk since May 30, and he wouldn't walk again until August 16. Between May 30 and August 16, 2011, Olivo batted 209 times, and he drew one walk that he didn't realize he had drawn. That stretch included 62 strikeouts.

Miguel Olivo is an established major-league veteran. He might have the league's very worst batting approach, and he has more career home runs than unintentional walks. As a Mariner, he has more home runs than overall walks. He is not a gifted defender, relative to other backstops, and still none of this has stopped him from finding employment. It's worth celebrating the fact that we'll probably never have to watch Miguel Olivo bat as a Mariner again. And it's worth considering the fact that teams keep seeing something they like in Miguel Olivo, even when the numbers are like "WHOA NO LOOK AWAY WE'RE HIDEOUS"

Big ups, Miguel Olivo. You have made minor Mariners history, and you are on the way to making minor major-league history. I don't think anybody actually says "big ups" anymore, but that makes two things in this post I shouldn't have to deal with very often from this point forward.