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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

August 9, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Alex Liddi has kept himself on Mariners’ radar this season

liddiresize.jpg
Few people gave Alex Liddi much chance at ever being a starting third baseman for the Mariners. And who knows? He just may never become one. But Liddi has made the most of his first Class AAA experience so far this season.
Going into tonight’s game, Liddi has a chance to tie the Tacoma Rainiers single-season record for runs scored in a season. The current mark is 107, set by Hosken Powell back in 1977.
Liddi has more than that going for him this year.
He’s hitting .263 with an .840 on-base-plus-slugging percentage that includes .506 on the slugging part to go with 25 home runs.
So, he’ll be up with the M’s any day now, right? Well, not so fast.
Photo Credit: AP


Liddi could indeed be called up in September when rosters expand, but some of it will depend on what the team’s needs are with Kyle Seager.
As we discussed this morning on my Talkin’ Baseball segment on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show, Seager has been getting infrequent playing time at best already in the majors. Crowding him out more by bringing up another third baseman seems a bit foolish.
And if you believe, like I do, that Seager could be solid trade bait this winter — since he’s blocked at second base and doesn’t project to have the third base power this team needs — then you’d like to play Seager more and more these final two months.
That’s how I see it. At least, as far as playing time for Liddi goes. He can still be called up, though probably not until a bit after the Sept. 1 start date. More on that later.
As for Liddi, he’d be the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years to make it to the majors since Reno Bertoia did it in 1962. The thing is, Bertoia, who passed away a couple of months ago, actually spent only the first year of his life in Italy and then grew up in Canada. So, that shows you the magnitude of what Liddi is close to accomplishing.
One of the things folks keep asking me is why Liddi has not made it up here to the majors already. Well, I’ll tell you, a glance at his batting stats provides the easy answer.
As good as his slugging percentage is, his on-base-percentage is only .335 with 140 strikeouts in 111 games. That’s a huge red flag for any major league team, especially given how the Pacific Coast League has seen batting numbers skyrocket this year.
Yes, we call that a “hole” in a hitter’s swing. And if you start bringing one too many holes up to the majors, the much more talented pitchers at this level will find it quickly and keep exploiting it over and over again.
In other words, a .335 OBP in AAA can turn into a .290 OBP in the majors and that’s just not going to do it.
So, for those wanting the quick answer, there it is.
You’d also want Liddi to make more strides with the glove before bringing him up to a team that doesn’t hit enough to be able to have guys learning to field up in the majors.
In other words, great season for Liddi so far in AAA. But he’ll need work before he’s ready to be a full-time major leaguer. It’s still possible he’ll be a September major leaguer. You do have to reward guys for a job well done and I can imagine the M’s doing that with Liddi — even if he stays glued to the bench with Seattle — once the AAA season ends.
And what an accomplishment that would be. Liddi has come a long way from the guy who tore up Class A ball with High Desert two years ago. Back then, everybody thought it was the ballpark effect and kept saying “Wait until he moves to the next level.”
Well, he’s moved up two levels and is still hitting. He’s proven some of the naysayers wrong already.
But this next level jump is going to be even tougher for Liddi. And going off the numbers, he’s not quite there yet.

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