|Young guns: Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero celebrate the young Canadian's salami that sank the Jays last night.|
It's way too early to get very excited or terribly depressed by this team. It's long term success or lack thereof is difficult to discern. There are some things I've seen, not necessarily SABRmetrically supported, and based on small sample sizes that I like over the past couple of years. First, this team is better able to bunch hits to score runs. Multiple hits in an inning make it more easy to score. They don't have lots of multiple hit innings, and they don't score often enough, but it's an improvement.
They're also getting more extra base hits. 15 home runs in 20 games going into tonight's contest. Not exactly going to set the world on fire, but there is the matter of those doubles. Michael Saunders leads the team with six, Kyle Seager has five, and Dustin Ackley has five, and pro-rated over the season thats a lot of doubles if they continue with this production. Just for the record the team leader for doubles last season was Justin Smoak with 23 (???!!!). Likewise with home runs, there are three players with three homers. Not likely to get anybody too excited. But last year Miguel Olivo led this team with 19 home runs, and Russell Branyan led in 2010 with 15 homers. Again, don't want to make too much with such a small sample size.
Finally, this team as a positive run differential (Runs scored -Runs allowed) of +4. Not a big deal after 21 games. But just for the record, the last time the Mariners finished the season with a positive run differential was 2003.
Just to be balanced, this team simply doesn't walk. As a team the on-base percentage .292. That is the same as last year's disaster, and actually .08 worse than the catastrophically horrendous 2010 team. Their current walk rate is 6.8 % which puts them in the bottom of MLB. They also strike out too much. Their 18.9% strikeout percentage puts them in the middle of the pack, but is too high compared to their walk rate. In both 2010 and 2011, according to FanGraphs, their walk rates were somewhat higher, but so were their strikeout percentages. These numbers should improve as the young players gain more experience. But who knows? They're kids and only time will tell.
I'd be remiss if I closed without commenting on last night's emotional victory over the Blue Jays. Even as I preach patience, I am guilty of "not believing." I watched the M's battle back from the 3-1 deficit, but at 6:45 I had to leave on an errand and turned the game off-just after the Jays scored their two runs in the eighth to take a lead. When I returned home the M's were tied on the MLB game tracker 5-5 in the tenth, and I quickly turned on the game in time to miss the Michael Saunders salami. I don't remember the last M's team that could have come back from that late Jays score. These guys fought back twice to win.
This isn't the same as last year's team. They're not good-yet. But they've got guts, and I haven't seen that in this town in a long time.