This organization is lost. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to what has transpired over the past couple weeks performance-wise. It’s what I’ve seen Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McClendon do that are consistent in what I’ve seen from them in the past. They say that you can’t win the division in April, but you can lose it. Well, the Mariners have been trying their hardest to lose it, and they just might do it. Coupled with the overperformance (in my opinion) of the Houston Astros, their chances aren’t looking awesome. However, it is June, and it is baseball.
Jack Zduriencik has been frustrating. He’ll make an awesome move that makes you think he’s fine, and then he’ll immediately make you question your faith in him. I have no faith in Jack Z. I’ve been in denial ever since he traded John Jaso for Michael Morse. He’s bad. It’s obvious. His philosophy in how he’s constructed these baseball teams is severely flawed.
We could revisit a ton of trades from the past, but I’ll try not to. Hindsight is 20/20, and the funny thing is Jack Z used to actually make really good moves. Jeff Sullivan has talked about this before, and we can draw the presumption that Z’s best moves from the past had more to do with his analytics team (Tom Tango, Tony Blengino, and so on) than Jack Z himself. Once known for building teams around pitching and defense, he has clearly moved on from that, and it’s frustrating!
Let us talk about how the roster is currently constructed, because what matters is the present and the future.
Going into the season, every position looked pretty solid. The rotation looked set, the bullpen was coming off of an amazing season, and some analysts even had the Mariners as favorites to win their very first World Series. They added Nelson Cruz at DH, had a very good looking platoon of Ruggiano/Smith in right field, Ackley/Weeks in left, and were expecting one of Miller or Taylor to run away with the shortstop job. Taijuan Walker had a great spring. Mike Zunino had a good spring! Dustin Ackley looked fixed, and things were looking up.
Most people, including myself, were happy with what Jack Z did. Why? Because what Jack did was basically the best case scenario that we could expect out of him. I’ve been terrified for years that he was going to go out and acquire Andre Ethier or Mark Trumbo (oops, he did!). The only position I felt he truly neglected was starting pitching depth. I also thought he was banking a little too much on the young guys to produce, but I can’t blame him too much for that.
Injuries happened, underperformance happened, everything happened! Thus far, Jack Z has (once again) been bailed out for his lack of foresight by Mike Montgomery and Roenis Elias. He should have been prepared for Hisashi Iwakuma to possibly be bad, or to get hurt. He’s been both!
If you thought Robinson Cano was going to be this dreadful in year two of his ten-year pact with the Mariners, then you ought to burn in hell for not notifying the Mariners. That I cannot blame him for. What I can blame him for is not being prepared to deal with what has happened, because most of these things we could have seen coming. Let’s check that out.
Check that graphic out. Look how terrible those backup options are. Most of them are Willie Bloomquist! (This is by means an official depth chart, but this is how I see things.)
The biggest problem is the offense. We have gigantic deadweights at catcher and left field, and we rank very low in hitting. As of today, the Mariners are ranked 17th in the MLB in wRC+, 28th in on-base percentage, and 18th in slugging percentage. Sigh. For a team built around dingers, 18th isn’t great. If you’re not going to be good at getting at base, then at least slug the shit out of the ball.
People point to the average of the Mariners with runners in scoring position, but to me that is so obviously not the problem. With runners in scoring position, the Mariners’ OPS is .666 (shudder). With no runners on base, the Mariners’ OPS is .698. A difference, but not a huge difference. Keep in mind the difference in sample size. The Mariners aren’t good at getting on base ever, so why are we surprised that they’re not better with runners in scoring position?
Lloyd can only work with what’s given to him. He has some sort of say in the things that Z does, but ultimately it’s up to Jack. That being said, Lloyd has almost definitely been worth a negative manager WAR. Manager WAR isn’t a thing, but Lloyd’s theoretical WAR is unequivocally negative. He’s a bad decision maker. He says the right things, he’s fiery, whatever. But when it comes to devising lineups and making decisions in-game, I’m not a fan. I can’t imagine many people are.
In a similar way to Jack Z, when I see the daily lineups, I just want them to be as not bad as possible. You can always expect something not smart or unconventional, but you just hope for it to be okay. Typically, it is. For example, I think Robinson Cano belongs in the two hole, but I have nothing against him batting third. An example of Lloyd being completely inept is batting Austin Jackson leadoff against righties. His OPS against righties this season is .636. That’s bad. How bad? That’s worse than the Mariners’ OPS with runners in scoring position (so you people should get it). That’s my first problem.
Second, Nelson Cruz playing right field… a lot. This isn’t a huge deal to me, but I’m not a fan. Lloyd’s justification is that Cruz hits better when he plays in the field, which is actually true! Regardless, his defense zaps his value and makes him a more ordinary player than he could be as a pure DH. When he was signed, it was expected he would DH with some starts in RF sprinkled in, but he’s played 37 games in RF and 21 games as the DH. So long as he doesn’t get injured (knock on wood), this is whatever.
Third, sticking with Fernando Rodney. We don’t have many options at closer. None of them are awesome. You know who isn’t awesome, though? Fernando Rodney. Barring an enormous turnaround, Carson Smith needs to take his spot. Rodney pitched his ass off last year. It was arguably his best season of his career. This season is the worst of his career. Use Tom Wilhelmsen, use Mark Lowe, use Carson Smith(!!!), I don’t care. Don’t let him close unless he’s back to 2014 Rodney.
Fourth, not understanding how to platoon. I don’t even want to get started on this. Lloyd doesn’t get it. He constantly references matchups, but specifically batter-to-pitcher or vice versa. He did the same exact thing last season. Ruggiano and Weeks have both faced far too many righties. That shouldn’t happen. Injuries aside, they’re platoon players for a reason. They can’t sufficiently hit right handed pitching consistently.
Jack’s biggest problem as a GM is his failure to cut his losses and move on from his missteps. Whether it’s with a player he’s drafted (Ackley), free agent signing (Weeks), or someone he’s traded for, he refuses to do so and it’s killing this team. Jack has rushed every prospect he’s ever had the chance to, and at this point he’s willing to do anything to save his job. He loves his job too much to be rational. The Mariners are in need of a complete organizational restructure from top to bottom. Due to the state of the farm system, our opportunity to win is in the next year or two. Unfortunately the Mariners are probably very close to yet another rebuilding stage. This time around, the hope is for a more analytical front office and a progressive manager. In the meantime, the Mariners are going to disappoint until we obtain players via trade who are better than Mark Trumbo.
As I finish up this post, the Mariners just DFA’d Rickie Weeks in order to call up Danny Farquhar, which begs the question: why? Why would you DFA Justin Ruggiano when you’re going to DFA Weeks shortly thereafter? Although they’re more or less equal hitters, Ruggiano is a better baserunner, fielder, and he’s more versatile. He was one of our best hitters, and Weeks has been one of our worst. It just goes to show that all Jack Z knows and cares about are #dingers.