Questioning Eric Wedge

18 06 2012

Posted by Will

Eric Wedge

It is time for Wedge to start playing the youth of the team more often

When the Mariners hired Eric Wedge in the winter of 2010, I had to say that I liked the move. Wedge had turned Cleveland from a young and inexperienced ball club into a playoff contender in just a matter of years. He is now the head of another young and inexperienced team in Seattle, and I have to question his decision making.

Twelve of the twenty-five players currently rostered are twenty-six years of age or younger. John Sickels of Minor League Baseball said prior to the season that Seattle had the fourth best minor league system in the game, and with the progression of arms Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, the team is about to get even younger. Even with this plethora of youth on the major league roster and more talent on the way, Eric Wedge is still insistent on playing the struggling veterans.

One issue is Wedge’s infatuation with catcher Miguel Olivo. While there is good reason to have Olivo on the roster because of his ability to call a good game and occasional glimpses of power, he should be used as a back-up or in a platoon role at best. Everytime he steps up to the plate, you might as well hand the opposing team free outs – his 56 wRC+ and 13.5 K/BB ratio are certainly not of much help to the club. While he has thrown out 13 of 38 runners, good for 34% of all runners, Jesus Montero has thrown out 6 of 27 runners, good for 29% of all runners, while contributing much more to the team with the bat (99 wRC+, which is essentially league average). John Jaso, in limited playing time, has produced twice as much WAR as Olivo while managing to post a 123 wRC+ with .358 OBP and a BB% higher than his K%-it would seem to make a lot more sense to let Jaso stick around as the starter and give Olivo the boot to the bench.

A glaring issue on this team is Chone Figgins. Fans are clamoring for his release with good reason-in the past two seasons, he has posted -2.1 WAR, good for the worst in baseball over that time span. Yet, Figgins still continues to collect his annual $9 million pay check while being of negative value to the club. While I’m sure the front office understands that he is a lost cause, I am under the impression that they are looking for a team willing to take on even the slightest amount of cash remaining on his mammoth contract that he inked in 2009. Figgins’ seemingly automatic strikeouts (25% K%) are wearing on fans and it’s time to take action and release him as soon as possible.

Chone Figgins

Figgins has been of negative value since joining the ball club in 2009

Another developing problem is Ichiro Suzuki, who has meant so much to this team and the city of Seattle over his eleven year playing career, but his age is slowly but surely becoming a hurdle. Two years ago a .300+ batting average with 200+ hits was just expected out of Ichiro. Those days are now behind us. This year he’s posted a .255 average with an 80 wRC+ to date, simply not getting the job done. His skills on the base paths and gold glove caliber defense are still assets to the team, but on the same token this level of play is no longer worthy of receiving everyday playing time; he has played in sixty-seven of seventy games thus far. With Franklin Gutierrez returning, it is assumed that Michael Saunders will switch to a fourth outfielder role, while he is deserving of much more after posting 2 WAR and swinging a hot stick. I’m alright with Ichiro getting regular playing time, but not at the expense of young players that are actually contributing when given the chance.

As a wrap, this team has many flaws and it’s essential that Eric Wedge, Jack Zduriencik and crew do their part to correct these things in order to maximize the teams’ production and get fans to the ballpark. I like Eric Wedge and I would hate for the team to have to fire its eighteenth manager in its thirty-five year history, but it’s time for him to step up his game.