Tonight, the Mariners take on the dynamic Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, so the Mariners will lose their designated hitter position, as will the Dodgers. They never had it in the first place anyways. Whatever. Nevertheless, because Paxton will be hitting in place of the DH, Lloyd got extra creative in order to get what he deems his best hitters into the lineup. This could be a preview for the World Series. It always could not be a preview of the World Series. Baseball is a funny thing.
For the first time in a long time, we will see Dustin Ackley both manning center field and leading off at the top of the lineup. Specifically, Ackley hasn’t led off since July 31st, 2014. The rest of the outfield will feature Nelson Cruz in left field and Seth Smith in right field in the first game of the series.
From what I’ve seen in the past hour or so via Twitter, people have been a little critical of this lineup, and of Cruz playing in the field in general. At this point in his career, Nelson Cruz is probably somewhere around league average as a corner outfielder. A little worse, even. Due to his age, his athleticism is clearly declining, but you could do worse than to have him in the outfield. Lloyd has said that he plans to have him in the field about two times a week. I’m not up in arms about the idea of that, but I would prefer Cruz spends most of his time occupying the DH spot in the lineup.
Overall, the Mariners have a rather modest fielding group of outfielders. From an advanced metrics standpoint, Dustin Ackley may be the best outfielder at his position on the team. (As in, Ackley is a better left fielder than Jackson is as a center fielder or Smith is as a right fielder.) That’s not exactly encouraging, as Ackley is a recent transplant from the lands of second base. Austin Jackson not only had a poor offensive year, but he was pitiful in the field in his year split between the Tigers and Mariners. Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith won’t wow you with their defense, but they won’t kill you either. In fact, Ruggiano could play a little center field in a pinch. In Ackley’s very short time in center field, his advanced metrics suggest that he was rather atrocious. Since that time, he’s gotten considerably better in the outfield and has actually developed into quite a solid left fielder. He’ll be better. Maybe not great, but better!
To me, I wouldn’t change much, if anything, about the lineup. If anything I might swap Miller and Paxton at the bottom of the order, but that’s being extremely nitpicky.
In addition to Tom Wilhelmsen being placed on the 15-day DL, Leone has been recalled to take his spot. Per Ryan Divish, McClendon has said that Rodney, Farquhar, and Medina won’t be available unless it’s an “absolute emergency”. If it comes time to close, I expect Carson Smith to get the opportunity.
Because this has turned into something of a Dustin Ackley post with other players sprinkled in, I now feel obligated to include the following tweet:
Happy Dustin Ackley Day, and go Mariners!