Allow me to preface my forthcoming statements by revealing that I believe Weighted On-Base Average is one of the most telling statistics in regards to a position player’s offensive abilities. The Seattle Mariners are currently sporting a wOBA of .286 points. League average wOBA in the American League is usually around .338 points. Obviously, the M’s have been unlucky on balls in play (.283 BABIP), but, in all honesty, this team couldn’t hit a baseball the size of a grapefruit. Even if it was coach-pitch softball and Don Wakamatsu didn’t throw anything harder than 60 mph.
Griffin and I have been telling you all season that this club doesn’t need to hit a bunch of dingers to be competitive in the AL West, and to some degree, we’re absolutely right. However, the M’s are under-performing mightily — not just the slap-hitting shortstop and young catcher tandem, but also the guys (Chone Figgins) who were supposed to be above-average offensively. Our team ISO is 0.94. That’s Yuniesky Betancourt’s 2010 ISO. It’s like we’re putting out a lineup of 9 Yuniesky Betancourts.
So, after 27 games, I’m going to change my stance slightly. The Mariners need a certain degree of offensive proficiency to win with a lineup centered around run-prevention, and that degree is noticeably higher than the one we currently boast. So then, naturally, we need to add a player to our ballclub who can hit well and subtract a player (or multiple players) from our ballclub who can’t hit well. Granted, that doesn’t mean getting rid of Jack Wilson and replacing him with Jermaine Dye because Dye hits demonstrably better; this team is built around defense, and there’s a reason why that is.
The first name that should pop into your mind when I propose the aforementioned course of action should be Mike Sweeney. If it isn’t, you place too much value on hugs and too little value on on-base percentage. At this point in his illustrious career, Sweeney can’t play the field or hit at a remotely high level. In other words, he can’t do anything to help the Mariners win. I acknowledge that Mike Sweeney is probably a wonderful husband and loving father, but he’s a shitty baseball player and he needs to stop taking up a roster position. Get it done, Jack.
The second name that should pop into your mind is Ken Griffey, Jr. But he’s probably here to stay unless he either voluntarily or forcibly retires, so at this point getting Griffey off the Mariners is a very unlikely outcome.
The third name that should pop into your mind is Jesus Colome. The Mariners do not need a seven-man bullpen. When you have two pitchers that pitch into the eighth inning on a regular basis, you’re just not going to need seven relievers. And Jesus Colome happens to be our worst reliever, so logically he should get the boot.
So let’s assume Jesus Colome and Mike Sweeney are dropped from the Mariners roster. This gives us two position player roster spots to work with. First of all, we’ll need another player with some positional flexibility. Jack Wilson and Milton Bradley are too fragile to be in the lineup 7 days a week, and I don’t feel comfortable with Josh Wilson getting regular at-bats for long stretches of time. Tui doesn’t really cut it from my perspective. The Mariners need someone who can rotate with Milton Bradley by playing outfield roughly 45% of the time and DHing 45% of the time. I would have no problem with keeping Griffey on the team to sell tickets as a late-inning pinch-hitter and to occasionally, occasionally, start at DH.
Various folks in the blogosphere have brought up guys like Lance Berkman and Adrian Gonzalez as DH/1B options. These people are kidding themselves. Gonzalez would fit nicely but would command too much value in return, and Berkman is too much of a risk to cost a top prospect. It’s not the most original of choices, but I would lobby heavily for Josh Willingham. Willingham can play the outfield about as well as Milton Bradley, take some walks, hit for power, and he plays for the Nationals, who are overflowing with outfielders. He’s perfect for this team and the entire blogosphere has been saying it for months and months.
Should a move for Willingham be made, the M’s would need still someone else that can hit and play the field. I don’t know, get Kila Ka’aihue or Alex Gordon from the Royals or something.
I have no doubt that Jack Zduriencik can work something out to resuscitate this offense, and I certainly hope it involves Josh Willingham becoming a Seattle Mariner.