Especially after today’s loss I felt it was appropriate to talk about the state of the Mariners outfield. The outfield is one of the biggest holes on the team, with many issues. Let’s take a look..
Probably the one aspect the Mariners don’t have to worry about is CF at least for this season because Austin Jackson can really cover a lot of ground in CF, and his speed really works to his advantage even in the outfield. Austin Jackson is starting to turn around with the bat and is collecting hits, he even showed his power yesterday with his home run. I agree with everyone though stealing bases is not one of his strengths.
I don’t know the reason why, it appears at times as though he does not get very good jumps, and his timing always seems to be off by a second, and in baseball an extra second makes all the difference. The Mariners do need to however consider a backup in CF for Jackson in the event he gets hurt. We saw Jackson hurt his ankle, and right now their backup CF is Dustin Ackley. Ruggiano was designated for assignment, but that’s a different discussion.
Ackley is average in the outfield, he can make the occasional catch at the wall, but his weakness in the outfield is his weak throwing arm. Even a James Jones could be the backup in CF and play the corners for you as one of your extra outfielders. But here’s where we get into some of the perplexing aspects of the outfield and it’s structure.
Right now in right field you have Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith basically splitting time. Cruz is fine splitting time there, but ultimately he should not be in the outfield a lot. Cruz is not known for his defense and as the season progresses, his defense now might change 6-7 weeks down the road. I guess what I’m saying here is Cruz in RF in spurts is acceptable, more than that you are exposing a weakness to the opposing team.
Seth Smith has been a pleasant surprise putting up very good at bats and getting on base at a decent rate. He has been fielding well also. The Mariners have been very smart with using Smith, in these platoon situations. Again if the Mariners play him too much (ie: against a LHP late in games) the team exposes a weakness.
And your platoon in LF is basically Dustin Ackley/Rickie Weeks. First with Dustin Ackley I basically described his defensive abilities above, and that’s not the issue, the issue obviously is his bat and his general offensive numbers. I don’t profess to being an expert, but I have been watching Ackley’s at bats a lot more closely. You will notice in many of his at bats that Ackley likes to chase the ball down and away. It gets him every time.
I did play baseball for a short time and I will say this, Ackley is not extending his swing through the strike zone if that makes any sense. I guess what I’m saying is watching his stance and his overall demeanor at the plate you see him going back to old bad habits that he has to get out of. Not saying it will be easy..I’m 50/50 a lot of people want to see the team move on from Ackley. The Yankees were rumored to be interested in him at one point. I would at least see what the Yankees would offer, you never know maybe you get another Farquhar out of it.
Rickie Weeks is not much better, to me he is the definition of an all or nothing hitter. His defense is tolerable in the outfield. He has not been the bat off the bench that many were hoping him to be. And that’s not entirely his fault. He has been put in matchups and situations that set him up to lose. Rickie Weeks has faced more RHPs than I had anticipated to unsurprising results. I will say this when he gets a hold of a ball, he sure hits it hard as evidenced by his home runs. I think it’s time however to give up this idea of making Weeks a utility guy, he is not like his brother Jemille.
Verdict: Trade for an outfielder who can get on base and improve your overall defense!
And I know you’re asking is there a perfect solution out there? Tough to say..this name intrigues me, tell me what you think.
***I went through some names and stats, and I really couldn’t find an ideal guy to my solution because many of these players most like won’t be traded. I mean Ben Revere of the Phillies could be interesting, but a quick look at his offensive numbers doesn’t scream excitement..