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Hard hits, sweet flips - The various joys of Taylor Motter

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The Norse god of versatility has blessed the Mariners with lasers and heyyysers.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks into the season isn’t when you want to be getting excited about backups.

Jean Segura was the Mariners most consistent hitter over the first few series and has already appeared to succeed where a litany of Mariners’ prospects failed over the past half-decade. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a minor hamstring injury, and while Segura is halfway through his 10-day DL stint the Mariners have needed to find a stopgap. They’ve gotten it from Taylor Motter, and then some.

Before we noticed him for his #MotterPop he was turning heads with his #MotterMop in Spring Training.

Soon, of course, everyone was catching on.

Motter’s ability to play every position on the field has allowed the Mariners, for better or worse, to stick with their 8-man bullpen and provide extra support for a starting rotation that came into the season with no shortage of question marks. Defensively he’s looked solid at shortstop, but his bat has been nothing short of a revelation, and it’s not like it’s been cheap.

The chart below shows every ball put in play by Motter in 2017 (prior to last night’s game). The scale on the bottom right tracks the exit velocity of the ball off the bat. League-average in 2017 is 87.9 MPH, for reference. The black dots represent his Spring Training numbers which receive no Statcast tracking. The link is here if you’d like to play around, but already you can see generally the heat Motter is putting on his hits so far.

As a color-blind person, nothing is more exasperating than a dimly chromatic fading scale, but it’s what we’ve got.
Statcast

110.2, 106.1, 106.5, 101, 105.1.

Those are the MPH exit velocities of Taylor Motter’s four doubles this season, as well as his one home run. It’s not just the balls that are dropping either. Motter’s .417 BABIP will fall off, but he has good speed and it’s not as though his outs have been cheap either.

110.9, 107.8, 99.0, 82.9, 80.9.

Those are the exit velocities of Motter’s outs. His average exit velocity entering Friday night’s game was 98.3 MPH. Nelson Cruz led the league last year at a 95.9 MPH clip, so this laser show will not sustain. Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus looked into the reliability of exit velocity and found it stabilizes much quicker than many statistics. Unfortunately, the number around which exit velocity usually is reliable is still 50 balls in play. The chart above lists 10 balls in play, and Motter is at 13 on the season including last night. There’s a significant jump in stability at 20 balls in play, but it’s still not great math. Hopefully Motter will continue to be an above-average hitter in this vein and overall, but at this juncture all we can claim is what Motter has done and not yet what he will do with all that much certainty.

Motter has feasted on fastballs and will now begin to quickly be fed a more balanced diet of off-speed and breaking pitches that should challenge him more. Still, it’s nice as another boost to Motter’s reputation as a utility player that is more than just a guy with a bunch of gloves. Moreover, having a utility player with base-stealing speed that can fill in capably anywhere on the field and at minimum forces opposing pitchers to continue working their best stuff is a huge get for the Mariners. Don’t get too comfortable with the level of offense he’s displayed thus far, but get comfortable with him as the Mariners’ new Jack-of-all-trades. Taylor’s here to stay, and as one of the lone bright spots in this past week of baseball he must be ready to stand against the darkness.

Tee Miller

Rage and rave against the dying of the light, Taylor.