March 18, 2013 at 9:37 PM
Don’t look now: Mariners have a real middle of the order
This can’t be overstated: the Mariners over the past several years that I’ve been here, starting in 2006, have lacked a legit middle of the order in their lineup. By that, I mean, lacked true No. 3 and No. 4 hitters. The best they’ve had came in 2007 and 2008, but even then, they were still using guys like Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre there.
Ibanez was moved down to No. 6 in the order by the Phillies when he went there in 2009. Beltre, as good a hitter and ballplayer as he is, was always a guy the Mariners would have rather had batting second.
But anyways, that’s nit-picking a bit. Bottom line is, we haven’t seen the likes of Michael Morse (this version) and Kendrys Morales hitting third and fourth here in a long, long time. Morse today hit home run No. 6, which you can see in the recap package above. That leads all major leaguers this spring. And Morales is right behind him with four long balls and an OPS above 1.000.
And what a difference that should make in taking the pressure off guys who are younger and have tried to do too much while thrust into the bigger power spots.
Remember, these aren’t a couple of no-names fluking it off in the Arizona sun. Both of these players have hit 30 homers or more in the past, so they have proven they don’t need dry desert air to do it.
One guy who could benefit most from having others around to take the pressure off him?
Jesus Montero. He sent a couple of power shots to the wall today, one of them clanking off it for a double and the other nearly leaving the yard aside from a great catch by Coco Crisp.
There’s a reason teams don’t like to ask 22-year-olds to bat cleanup, as Montero had to do at times last year. There are a ton of expectations thrust on to guys who hit in that spot. They are expected to deliver by their teams and the weight of those expectations can be huge when you’re still learning about survival daily in the majors as Montero is.
Morse and Morales? Been there, done that.
I know some people don’t buy into lineup construction and the roles of hitters in certain spots. Know who does? The players and the guys who manage them.
And that’s really all that matters. If players themselves buy into it, there’s a confidence factor at-play, not only for those guys, but for the rest of the lineup. If the rest of the lineup knows they have big guys in the middle who can take care of business, it takes away the need for those other players — especially young ones — to try to do too much.
And we’ve all seen that happen throughout the past three or four years here.
All those players who come to Seattle and mysteriously can’t hit anymore? Well, for some they just couldn’t hit anymore. For others, the park played a role. But for others, too, they will be the first to admit they were squeezing the bat too hard.
The Mariners have moved in their fences. They ‘ve gotten rid of players who were done. But this, well, this is one more element to the puzzle. Get a middle of the batting order that can actually do damage. The best way to have MLB-type production from a lineup? Build a lineup that looks like it belongs in the majors. Hitting-wise, the Mariners already look a lot better this spring and not because some Munenori Kawasaki is batting .450.
No, it’s because guys who have shown they are good MLB hitters when the games count for real are doing exactly what they’ve been brought here to do. And it should help everybody in that batting order.