Another M’s season is over…Where do they stand? The condor edition

Will Michael Saunders progress

LF Michael Saunders reflected back on the season for the Seattle Mariners after their last game, noting Felix Hernandez’s perfect game, beginning the year in Japan, and his place on this team.

Mentioning his place on the M’s 25-man roster may seem like a throw away comment for most ball players, but the sense of belonging comes with so much more.

Confidence can make a player better and transform a rookie to a leader in the clubhouse.

Special thanks to, tienes mi corazón.

Before the season began, the Mariners held press conferences for many of their best players and new acquisitions. Felix, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Saunders all took the podium.

I was surprised to see Saunders on the podium rather than fighting for a spot on the team.

The outfield appeared loaded, Ichiro Suzuki was a given at RF, Franklin Gutierrez in CF (if healthy), and Casper Wells, Mike Carp, and Saunders would fight for time in left.

Manager Eric Wedge had other ideas, and Saunders was given the opportunity to succeed or fail in 2012.

Saunders played in 139 games, had 19 HR, 57 RBI, 21 SB and a .247 batting average. Every one of those categories was a career high.

His WAR (wins above replacement) was 2.1, although this is not a huge number (Mike Trout led the AL with a WAR of 10), it does suggest that Saunders was producing at a better level than the average Major League LF.

His numbers were career highs because of production, not just an increase in plate appearances. Saunders contributes now by playing great defense, hitting the ball and running consistently.

Michael Saunders

Michael Saunders had a career offensive year for the Mariners in 2012

Eric Wedge told reporters in April that the lanky 25-year-old (6’4” 215) was the fastest player on the M’s roster, whuch was a team built on speed and defense. Saunders was really stepping up.

After this career year, is Saunders a progression or regression candidate for 2013?

Reasons for Progression:

1. August was Saunders worst month of the season, hitting .189, and his second half overall was worse than his first half.

In the second half, Saunders had a few nagging injuries that come with the wear and tear of a 162-game season. Saunders will know how to prepare his body for 2013.

2. His BA/OBP/SLG numbers were better batting against left-handed pitchers than right.

For those unaware, Saunders hits left-handed. Normally, lefties see the ball better against right handed pitchers, his averages are bound to improve vs. righties.

3. 21 SB’s is good production from a LF, and speed rarely slumps.

With the Mariners needing production wherever and whenever possible, expect Saunders stolen base attempts to increase rather than decrease.

Reasons for Regression:

1. Dude strikes out a lot. 132 KO’s in 139 games played. Only 9 LF eligible players struck out more than Saunders, and all of them had more plate appearances than he did.

2. Saunders batting average was almost 100 points higher in games the Mariner’s won than games the mariners lost (.295 vs. .203).

This could mean a lot of things or nothing at all.

My hypothesis is that Saunders’ play was calm and a little more confident when playing with the lead, and he pressed when playing from behind. Here’s to hoping the M’s have the lead a lot more next year.

3. Saunders had career highs in every statistical batting category. Every. Single. One. It will be hard to do that again. Also, .247 is not a very high batting average, if that doesn’t improve, neither will his numbers.

Season highlight:

The Canada native had himself a night in Toronto on April 27, leading the comeback and finishing the job.

In the top of the 9th with the Mariners down two, Saunders crushed a 452-foot home run to dead center. Later John Jaso drove in the tying run.

In the top of the 10th with the bases loaded, Saunders lined the game-winning grand slam just inside and over the fence in right. 5 RBI is a good career high; let’s hope there is more of this in the Condor’s future.


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