Michael Saunders is on the DL right now, his second stint in a short time, which means the Mariners are missing one of their legitimate bats and a good outfielder. Despite him being one of the solid performers in their lineup, we regularly see Saunders hitting in the 7th spot in the batting order. The player that is taking his spot, I consider this his spot, is Endy Chavez.
Even with his now decent average at .259, Endy is only getting on base at a .287 clip and his WAR is that of a player less valuable than replacement level. A fine 4th outfielder in a platoon role maybe, but not exactly someone I would like hitting at the top of the order most nights.
Saunders returned from injury on June 27 only to quickly return to the DL after playing on July 10. At first I thought perhaps Saunders needed time to adjust after being on the DL and get back into the swing of things. Considering he didn’t get much time before hitting the DL again it could be thought that he wasn’t playing as good as I thought he was.
Looking at the numbers, that was not the case at all. In the thirteen games Saunders played between the end of June and mid July, Saunders slashed .306/.370/.449. In that same time frame, Chavez slashed .243/.300/351. Despite the success Saunders only hit in the top of the order 3 times before getting pushed back to the bottom of the order.
I have heard Lloyd McClendon say that he believes Saunders does best when he is able to get regular rest. From a fans point of view, I dislike that because that means one of the team’s best, if not the best, outfielders is off the field. However, if it keeps Saunders playing the way he is then I am for it.
What I am not in favor of is putting someone who hits as well as Saunders in a spot in the order where they are not as effective. Typically when you are hitting in front of the 8th and 9th hitters the runner will not be scoring as much if say they’re hitting in front of the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th hitters.
Having good hitter mixed in the bottom of the order is a luxury. A luxury afforded to teams who already have a powerful top of the order. This is one of those luxuries the Mariners do not have. It is one that could be made possible with all these trade rumors swirling around.
If the Mariners are able to make a move to bring in another reliable bat then, depending on who they get and how they fit into the order, perhaps they would fit into the top order and allow for Saunders to carry the bottom.
For now they cannot afford spreading their weapons. A good example of why they shouldn’t is the Minnesota series. They were to put up high hit counts but not many runs to show for it. Was it only because Saunders was hitting in the wrong spot? No. In fact Saunders hit at the top of the order in two of the 4 games that series.
My point isn’t that he will instantly make them better but that it gives them a better chance to be better. Until they get another bat to fill out the top, when Saunders returns he needs to be hitting at the top of the order.