It's a Mariners off day, and I'm never really sure how to approach a Mariners off day. Should I take a step back and examine the whole team, or should I write about whatever I want, pretty much like I do the rest of the time? I end up writing about whatever I want, like I do the rest of the time, but there's always that sense of conflict. Rarely am I in the mood to take a step back and examine the whole team. Right now, the whole team has lost four games in a row and just got swept by the White Sox. The hell with the whole team, I'm gonna write about Jesus Montero.
I don't have any one particular angle, here - I just feel like writing about Jesus Montero because people are probably curious about Jesus Montero. The offense was supposed to be carried by Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Montero. Neither Ackley nor Smoak has pulled his weight. Montero hasn't pulled his weight either, and he's the newest one, so this is a post about him instead of an incumbent.
Montero's batted 58 times. He's generated two walks and 13 hits, including a pair of dingers out to straightaway center. His lone other extra-base hit was a double behind first base that was more like a single hit to the right spot on the field. It wasn't a ringing drive to the gap. Now, anything that Jesus Montero can stretch into a double has to be a pretty remarkable hit, and he didn't make bad contact or anything, but it's not like it was a double that was almost a home run. It was a low line drive that dropped just fair.
It feels unfair and so Mariners that Montero has sort of stumbled out of the gate. Of course, it's not unfair, at least relative to the Yankees' end of the trade, since Michael Pineda still has a shoulder problem of unknown severity and hasn't thrown a Major League pitch. At least Montero's on the field and has hit a few dingers. And it's not "so Mariners" because it's not like every young player comes up and immediately disappoints. Dustin Ackley got off to a great start, and last year had Mike Carp, and last year also had Michael Pineda.
Still, over 69 trips to the plate late last year with New York, Montero had a .996 OPS. With the Mariners, he's posted a .629 OPS. Montero has plenty of time to turn things around, so much time, such an incredible amount of time, and I suspect that he will, but how much better would we feel if Montero came out of the gate sprinting? Or doing the Jesus Montero equivalent of sprinting. Even if the Mariners were still 7-10, or even 6-11 or 5-12, the situation would feel brighter if Montero were slugging. We just want to see more signs of life than we've seen.
Of interest is that, out of 190 qualified hitters so far, Montero ranks 13th in rate of first-pitch strikes. The sample size is tiny, but Montero hasn't wound up with many opportunities to work ahead. We'd already expect Montero's numbers to regress; this will regress as well, and it should help drive the other regression. Montero isn't going to be fed 69 percent first-pitch strikes all season long. There's a difference between first-pitch strikes and first-pitch pitches in the zone, of course, and some of this is Montero swinging, but not all of it is Montero swinging.
Also of interest is Montero's spray chart to date, courtesy of Texas Leaguers:
We knew about Jesus Montero's opposite-field power at the time of the trade, and we were excited about Jesus Montero's opposite-field power coming into the season. That opposite-field power ought to suit him well in Safeco Field. But while Montero's demonstrated an ability to go the other way, he has yet to hit a ball out the other way, and perhaps more importantly, how often have we seen him pull the ball on a line? His homers went right up the middle. Not much has been hit with authority to left. We all want to see Montero appear more well-rounded. One of the marks of a well-rounded hitter is the ability to hit with authority to all fields.
There's nothing conclusive in here, because the Mariners have played 17 games, and Jesus Montero has played 15 games, against a limited selection of opponents. Whatever you thought Jesus Montero would be coming in, you still have to assume he will be, unless you are a professional scout and you've seen something new. I haven't seen anything new, and I figure Montero will hit his stride in time. It would be nice if that time were to come soon. The highest OPS+ among Mariner regulars belongs to Brendan Ryan and I'm tired of feeling embarrassed.