What if there were no Kyle Seager?
Drafted in the third round, Kyle Seager was a prospect, but a relatively uninteresting one. By some he was considered, at best, a utility man at the major league level—if he even made it that far. Ackley struggled, Smoak struggled, Montero struggled and, had Seager done the same, we may not have even noticed.
It's completely within the realm of possibility that the Mariners "first wave" of prospects could've produced no fruit at all.
This team is bad, and at times the frustration it produces makes you wonder why you even care, but I can't begin to fathom where this thing would be without Seager. In the chart thread I posted I earlier I asked whether people would prefer Russell Wilson or Seager, if they had to choose one, and the response was a somewhat-expected hard lean towards Wilson—because a quarterback has a much bigger impact on the outcome of games. But that's not really why we love Seager. It's a thing that he does, impact games, but the affinity for Kyle Seager comes from something else, from believing he is like us. And, really, Wilson's the same.
We as fans project ourselves onto athletes. We want to see what we hope we'd be like if granted a similar level of talent.
We hope we could be the type of individual to rise up and exceed expectations. We've all been overlooked, and we want to be someone who proves the ones who did the overlooking wrong—very, very wrong. We want to be someone who's always aware, and knows the right thing to do at every moment. We want to be the one who can be counted on, and then reward others' faith, at life's most crucial moments. We want to be great because we worked hard, harder than everyone else—not because it was given to us, because it wasn't given to us.
Most of the time, we're not that person. We'd give anything to be, but we're not. That's why we watch Kyle Seager, that's why we love Kyle Seager.
Let's do some bullets.
- Felix did what Felix does. He pitched superbly, had a minor hiccup in the middle and he got a no decision because the Mariners couldn't score enough runs. That hiccup was a two home run fifth inning, with solo shots by David Murphy and Ian Kinsler. Two things. One, how was David Murphy ever good? I've never taken much notice of David Murphy, but when I did this year his build and body language at the plate year reminded me of a pitcher. And his numbers this year (68 wRC+) made me feel as if my hasty prejudging was warranted—but he had a 127 wRC+ last year and is normally an average to above-average player. I had no idea.
Two, the other home run looked like this:
It was an 11-pitch at-bat in which Felix gave in and/or lost focus, tossing Kinsler a high inner-half fastball.
One more note on Felix: in the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Beltre hit a leadoff ground-rule double. Felix retired the next three batters—Pierzinski, Berkman and Moreland—going flyout, strikeout, flyout. It was like it was nothing, and barely anyone mentioned in either the game thread or on Twitter. It's a good pitcher doing good things, but it's reached the point where we're barely impressed by it because it's become so routine.
- It's a very small sample but since Justin Smoak returned from the disabled list, he's at .310/.408/.548. It's a mini-stretch of above-average play, the type of stretch that keeps you hopeful enough to not totally and completely bail on him. It's his signature. But what we've never seen before is Justin Smoak with pitch recognition, very impressive pitch recognition. In the sixth inning, Smoak fell behind Holland 0-2 before seeing two consecutive sliders at his back foot; he laid off both. Then fouled off a slider in the zone, and took a fastball in for a walk that loaded the bases. Looking back, the balls weren't particularly close, but how many times in the past has that not mattered to Smoak? In related news: Jesus, Dustin Ackley.
- When I played baseball, I was not very good. It's the reason I didn't play past the age of nine or ten. But when I played, my greatest fear was coming up in crucial situations where an out would invoke frustration from my teammates. I'd count down the batters to the end of the game, praying I wouldn't be the last out, or hope we at least wouldn't come close to scoring when I was coming up because yeah, that out was coming.
It seems Dustin Ackley comes up in a disproportionate number of these situations, times when the failure-induced frustration is especially exacerbated. Tonight he fell behind 0-2 before hitting a fly out that wasn't deep enough with a Seager on third with no outs in the second, he struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth and he grounded into a double play with one out and runners at the corner in the eighth. On the last play, he was really safe, and by a considerable margin, but he still managed but a grounder to the shortstop in that situation. He had a four-pitch walk and played a decent center field but so far there isn't a great deal to be encouraged by from Dustin Ackley 2.0.
- Zunino is what we expected. He's a solid defensive catcher but he struggles at the plate, looking lost a majority of the time—especially on breaking pitches. At times though, you can see something there, signs he's progressing ever so slightly. After Dustin Ackley's bases-loaded strikeout in the sixth, Zunino produced this at-bat:
(Google Chrome autofill and the LL uploader reminds me I've noted this before.)
Anyway, Zunino fell behind 0-2 before fouling off a 95 mph fastball at the top of the zone (in the thread I said AJ and Holland were getting greedy—they were) before holding back on three straight sliders at his back foot. He'd foul off one more pitch, an inside fastball, before hitting a hard grounder to Beltre, which he misplayed. Yes, it took one of the two best third basemen in the history of the game messing up, but Zunino earned what was still ruled a hit.
- Nick Franklin went 0-5 tonight and I didn't even notice because I just assume Nick Franklin only does well and gets a hit at least every game. This is only noteworthy in the sense that I didn't even notice until now, because we've already reached the point I take Franklin's production for granted. That isn't to say I'm not constantly blown away by it, because I am, but I've come to expect it.
- Now, on expecting success from young guys: I'm a bit surprised Miller has scuffled as much as he has. It's been a rough go as he's now just 3-21. Someone noted in the game thread that he seems a bit over-eager up there, and I agree. But he's also faced a couple tough lefty starters as well. I think he'll be fine, but Franklin has thrown off my current expectation of prospects, especially prospects who produce at AAA (so, not Mike Zunino).
To wrap this up, I have to say I'm cautiously optimistic regarding the this second version of the 2013 Mariners and wave two of the prospects. If Morse comes back and can stay healthy, we may have something. I'm counting Brad Miller's debut as the benchmark for the dividing line for this season, and so far the M's are playing .500 ball.
Tomorrow, it's Iwakuma for the sweep. Go M's.