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September 18, 2009 at 9:44 AM

Why Bill Hall is getting so much playing time with the Mariners

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Some of you have wondered about Bill Hall and why the Mariners insist on playing him every night. Hall arrived here just about a month ago after a trade from the Brewers. Since then, he’s essentially bumped Michael Saunders to the bench and gotten 22 starts for the Mariners.
Those starts have been all over the field. There have been 11 in left field, eight in right field, two at second base and one at third base. Interestingly enough, third base, the place he’s played the least, is arguably Hall’s best position. But these starts have not been about positional play. The Mariners already know Hall is an excellent third baseman.
This has been about seeing whether he can hit every day. And that might be the one thing — the most important thing — they learn about the individuals on this team this final month.

After all, Ryan Rowland-Smith has done this late-season surge thing before. The team has already seen him do that.
The M’s still don’t know what they’ve got in Brandon Morrow, who has electric stuff, but poor command. They’ve seen that before.
They won’t learn much about Adam Moore or Matt Tuiasosopo in a handful of games.
Doug Fister is a surprise, but can he do this out of spring training?
Saunders has shown he’s having trouble adjusting to major league pitching, which is nothing new for guys breaking in. So, they’ll work with him, wait to see his off-season results, then hope to see something better come spring training.
But with Hall, he’s already broken camp several times, hit 35 home runs in the big leagues one year, done all of that newcomer adjusting stuff. The big question with him is whether he can still do it. And that’s going to be determined by what he’s done the past month and what he continues to do in the final two weeks.
The Mariners did not acquire Hall as a utility player. For sure, they knew he had the skills to be one, at the very least.
But they acquired him in the hopes of landing an undervalued, everyday player. They hoped a change of scenery and added playing time might revive the former player he once was, given that he’s yet to turn 30. And they are providing every opportunity for that player to come out — and for a good reason.
Adrian Beltre is a free agent after the season and is likely not coming back. The Mariners will need to know, by Oct. 4, what they have in Hall. Because he is an excellent defensive third baseman and if he shows he can still hit as an everyday player, the Mariners won’t have to go out and spend free-agent money to bring another one in,
Yes, they also have Tuiasosopo, but his glove is nowhere near what Hall’s is.
In other words, Tuiasosopo would have to hit a whole lot better than Hall to provide equivalent value at that position.
The reason Hall is not getting time at third is because Beltre is already there and this is not about his glove. That skill hasn’t gone away, as we can see by how he’s played other positions since arriving in Seattle.
This is about his bat.
So far, Hall is hitting .238 with a .283 on-base percentage, a .405 slugging percentage and a .688 OPS as an everyday player with Seattle. Those are not starting third base numbers. Or starting left fielder numbers. They are coming from a small sample, to be sure, but it’s all the Mariners have to go on before they need to make some key off-season decisions.
And not all of this will be off stats. They will have to decide whether his stats are something that can be improved upon. This is the difference between major league executives and coaches and people like you and me who look at stats. Those being paid in baseball can often see things that you and I can’t. They can see whether a hole in a swing can be worked on or not. They can tell, by studying video footage, or looking at a guy’s approach at the plate, or working with him in the indoor batting cages before games, whether a guy is what he is or can be something more.
Sometimes they get it right, other times not. Player evaluation is never an exact science. But the reasoon they are paid at their jobs is because they will get it right more often than not. Otherwise, they don’t keep their jobs for very long. Well, at least, in theory, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
And all that is taking place with Hall at the moment.
He has shown flashes and come through with big hits already, like the game-tying home run yesterday in the ninth. But he has also struck out a ton and been a hole in the lineup at other times. What the M’s are looking for is consistency. They will allow him time to adjust to his new surroundings and stuff, but really, they need some sign he can be a consistent hitter every day if they are to assign him such a role moving forward.
So, he has two weeks and two days left to show them something.
If he doesn’t, then the Mariners will have to include third base and possibly left field among the positions they need to acquire some additional coverage for this winter.
They saw enough from Saunders in a 100-AB sample to know he has some serious things to work on this winter. Some big adjustments to make. They didn’t need to keep running him out there for a bunch of additional hitless games, maybe ruining his confidence in the process, to come to that conclusion. Nobody is giving up on Saunders, so don’t worry about that. It’s just that the Mariners saw what they had to see from him as far as where he’s at. Now, they’ll make improvements behind the scenes and then look to see them in the Arizona Fall League and at spring training next year. If he shows enough, maybe he’s the starting left fielder. If he doesn’t, then somebody else perhaps gets the job.
As for Hall, he has to give the team reason to believe he can still play every day. The team needs to see he can be more than he was for the Brewers the past few seasons, or else, he gets pencilled in as a utility player and the club looks elsewhere for the full-time third base solution.
But that’s what is going on. And it’s why, lousy numbers or not, Hall is still being shoved out there in the lineup on a nightly basis. The whole part about guys “learning” to play in the majors in September can be a tad overrated at times. You learn to play by breaking camp and then producing, or not producing when games matter.
But September can still be about “showing” rather than “learning”. Hall has been “showing” the Mariners what he’s got and they’ve been paying close attention, trust me.



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