== Dr. Jack and Mr. Z ==
M’s Watcher responded to our post about the Astros evaluation of Alex Jackson with this comment:
It’s nice confirmation of how highly others thought of Jackson, and how fortunate we were to have him fall to us. I can’t help but think about our other recent high draft pick hitters. Deej was a top college bat at 3B, and only three other college bats picked ahead of him. Only Bryant, picked at #2 that draft is a power bat. Zunino was the top college bat (also with power) and a premier catcher. Ackley was the college player of the decade (1990s), but only showed power in his last year in college. It seems the Mariners’ focus has shifted from just high BA hitters like Ack, to ones with more projectable power. It makes me wonder if Ack is a closer fit to the Figgins mold, than a Boggs or Gwynn, and it is hard for me to understand his struggles.
Watcher is dead on.
I don’t want to get into the whole Tony Blengino “thing.” Suffice it to say that there are lots of grains of salt and cases of sour grapes associated with any of Blengino’s comments about how things worked inside the M’s front office, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t right about some of the dysfunction as well.
But as a shorthand way of approaching things, it is clear that early in the Z-Regime (when Blengino was ascendant), there was much more of a focus on left-handed hitters with on-base ability, and, later (when Blengino was diminished and then out), there has been more of a focus on power, and trying to add right-handed bats.
We know that when the Z-Crew moved in, there were various comments about how amazed they were at how the roster was such a bad fit for the park. I think we now know that a lot of the anonymous stuff coming out into the media and blogs was from Blengino.
And among the very first hitters acquired in the new regime: Endy Chavez (LH, keeps the ball on the ground, low K-rate) and Mike Carp (LH, draws walks, hits line drives). The free-agent money went to switch-hitting small-ball guy Chone Figgins. And in the draft they went after Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin (switch-hitter but much better LH), Kyle Seager, and Brad Miller.
When they had a super-valuable trade chip, they cashed it in on Justin Smoak (another switch-hitter LH-oriented).
We know what happened. Runs-scored plunged well below 600, the offense looked hopeless, and Blengino went to the doghouse and then to — ultimate humiliation! — blogger status.
We saw “Jack 2” arrive when he fished for right-handed power in Casper Wells and then Jesus Montero. Then injury-prone free agents Mike Morse and Corey Hart.
And in the draft, complete reversal: Mike Zunino, Patrick Kivlehan, D.J. Peterson, Austin Wilson, Tyler O’Neill, and now Alex Jackson and Gareth Morgan. All right-handed.
True, some of that was just the players available at the time. Particularly as to Zunino, D.J. and Jackson. And, obviously the big free-agent addition Robinson Cano is left-handed (though not a “small ball” guy).
But taking chances on Kivlehan, Wilson and Morgan (particularly after Zunino, Peterson and Jackson had already been picked) reflects, I think, a very deliberate effort to add RH-hitting guys who can put some charge into the ball.
And targeting Wells was probably the first tip-off (no Carp-types in that deal).
Is Jack 2 better than Jack 1?
Some of both.
Obviously, the Ackley and Smoak flame-outs go on the Jack 1 tab, along with the miserable offensive seasons of 2010 and 2011.
But Wells and Montero cost two very good pitchers who might otherwise still be around, and for naught. He signed Morse for the wrong year, and Hart’s impact has been paltry so far. Charge those deals to Jack 2. And the whole new crop of RH sluggers might well get swallowed up by Safeco Field like Adrian Beltre did. We won’t know that for awhile.
Yet the great promise of the moment is the emerging offensive core of Cano, Zunino and Miller manning three “glove” positions — leaving the “work to do” around the corners. It’s certainly a whole lot easier to find 1b/DH and corner-OF types, both from within and without.
And that’s one from the Jack 1 pipeline and one from the Jack 2 pipeline, plus the free agent Cano.