Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
With the Mariners striving to make this season more than just a rebuilding year the question must be asked, “Who will the Mariners depend on to succeed?” Many see this as an easy answer, Robinson Cano.
We know he is going to hit and be the premier bat in this lineup. But if we are really being honest with ourselves, we know the Mariners were more than just one big bat away from success.
If we are being even more honest, we know they might have been more than a few bats away. Cano instantly improves this lineup and trading for Logan Morrison and signing Corey Hart are nice, despite the risk that they do not bounce back from injuries, but I see someone else as the key to their success.
The Mariners are going to need a big step forward from second year shortstop Brad Miller.
Miller has an unorthodox swing but the bat speed and pitch recognition to make it work with some pop. He was used as the leadoff hitter last year and had a decent showing.
Of course his numbers in the minors were much stronger and that is chalked up to lesser competition. The key stat to pay attention to in Miller’s rookie season is his .318 OBP. As someone who posted great on-base numbers in the minors you would hope for a little more production there.
Cano can hit all he wants but if there is no one on base to score it won’t mean a thing. This is where Miller will play a huge role this coming season. As he will be hitting in front of Cano it will be important that he get himself on base and do it often.
Throughout Miller’s career he has posted high line drive and ground ball rates. This should bode well for him trying to improve on his batting average and on-base numbers as he is a good runner. The truth is he does not need to do too much more.
Yankees leadoff man Brett Gardner last year posted a .344 OBP which lead to him scoring 81 runs hitting in front of Cano. That’s just a 26 point difference and Miller just has to close the gap some.
The point is now that the Mariners have an elite bat most likely hitting third in their order it is crucial for the top of their order to get on base. With the way the roster is looking I could see Kyle Seager fitting in very well batting second. After two years of solid numbers that keep improving from Seager, a decent improvement from Miller would give the Mariners an offense that might actually score some runs.
They don’t need Shin-Soo Choo-like OBP; just a slight improvement to put pressure on opposing pitchers and give the new middle of the order something to work with. If Miller can provide that pressure it will lead to the Mariners finally making some noise in the AL West once again.