Kingdome Crossover- Why Michael Saunders Is the Most Important Player in the Seattle Mariners’ Lineup

Here is a piece I wrote over at http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/ on why Michael Saunders is the most important player in the M’s lineup. Thought you all might enjoy it.

Big name additions Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales might be viewed as the most important players in the M’s lineup. It might be the development of budding stars Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Or it could be Michael Saunders.

Michael Saunders who hit .727 (that being 8 for 11 for all of you who didn’t major in some sort of math at MIT) in the World Baseball Classic. Michael Saunders, who I gave the nickname Grand Torrido to despite “Torrido” meaning torrid in Italian and the M’s having one of the more prominent Italian players in the game of baseball in their organization: Alex Liddi. Whatever, Saunders is the most important player in the lineup and this is why.

He extends the lineup.

The M’s current group of hitters, which I so pleasantly outlined for you here, comprises of a lot of power hitters. Or lack of top-of-the-order guys. Dustin Ackley will likely hit leadoff, something he can do, but probably would be slightly better utilized elsewhere in the lineup. Ackley also isn’t a speed demon on the base paths, something the M’s haven’t had since Ichiro.

Even if you hit Ackley leadoff, you don’t have a full time number-two hitter. Morse and Morales will hit in the middle of the order. As will Jesus Montero. Brendan Ryan fits the bottom half of the lineup better. Kyle Seager probably belongs with the first group. That really only leaves Saunders, Guti and Smoak/whoever plays first as your options. Smoak/first base committee is a no. Obviously. After that it’s a tossup of either Guti or Grand Torrido. Guti is well… I don’t know if he personifies a two-hole hitter.  That leaves Saunders.

In the piece I noted that you could hit Guti second because of his penchant to get extra base hits. Something that looks really good when happening in front of the big boys in the order. But Guti isn’t a big speed guy. Something you need at the top of the order. Ackley, as mentioned, isn’t a huge speed demon, so you need as much extra speed as you can get at the top of the order. Saunders, I will add, lead the team in stolen bases as well as placing second in extra-base hits. That not only plays into his candidacy for the second spot in the order but for hitting down in the order, say in the five spot.

I also wrote about how Saunders lost it with his torrid hitting in the WBC, hitting behind two established, middle of the order guys. I’m not saying Morse and Morales are Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, but the comparison is somewhat plausible. The point is that if you hit Saunders behind two good middle-of-the-order hitters, he will produce.

If you hit him there, he also adds speed in that position as well. Something (speed) that the Mariners need at nearly every position.

Whether you hit Saunders second or fifth, he is going to be an integral part of the M’s. Extending the lineup with his speed or slugging, Saunders is going to be a big part of the M’s this year.

You can see the piece in all it’s glory at kingdome here. 

Picking the Field: NCAA Tournament Predictions – And Yes, I Have Gonzaga Winning it All

Last year I wrote a terribly long essay on my NCAA “Picks to Clicks.” (In hindsight, that title is grammatically screwed up. Alas what a year of writing can do for you’re grammer skills.)

This year I won’t bore you with the reasons why Notre Dame will beat Iowa State (Notre Dame wins the game by the way) or why Louisville will beat Western Kentucky (see Sheen, Charlie: Um… Duhhh.) But I will share most of my latter tournament predictions and such. Which will all end with Gonzaga cutting down the nets in Atlanta.

These are my non-chalk picks in the first round, or the round after 60 teams get a “bye”-

  1. Play-in Winner (11 Seed) over Memphis. Memphis statistically is all ginger peachy with a pass happy team (4th in the country in assists per game), a solid offense (21st in points per game) and a decent rebounding squad (39th in the land in boards per game.) However none of this, or all, not exactly sure, contributes to the fact that the Tigers lost almost every meaningful game they played in. Yes, they beat the living daylights out of Conference USA, but it’s CONFERENCE USA. They get the daylights beat out of them by lots of teams. Memphis’ quality competition this year included Louisville (lost by 9), Minnesota (lost by 9 again), VCU (lost by 12), Xavier (lost by two) and Tennessee (won by 5.) HEY LOOK THEY BEat… oh, that’s right. The Vols were left out in favor of La Salle and Middle Tennessee State. I’m writing this before the play-in game and posting it after. Probably not smart, but I’m picking St. Mary’s to win that one. I’ve seen a lot of the Gaels recently, and they are quite good. Even if Middle Tennessee were to win, I think they stand a good chance to knock out the Tigers.
  2. Belmont (11 seed, again I know) over Arizona (6 seed). Belmont strength: shooting the lights out from three. Arizona weakness: defending the three. Yep.
  3. Colorado (10) over Illinois (7). These games are nearly just as close as the 8-9 games in terms of determining a winner. Colorado’s prowess on the glass should help subdue a small Illini team.
  4. Temple (9) over NC State (8). And the coin landed tails.
  5. Minnesota (11) over UCLA (6). I really do not like six seeds so far. Regardless, Minnesota is a very athletic team that reached nowhere near its ceiling this year. UCLA will have issues. (If you’re counting along at home, Butler is the only six seed left in the field. Woohoo!) (See veiled attempt at sarcasm.)

 

Moving on to my non-chalk picks in the next round-

  1. Oklahoma State (5) over Saint Louis (4). This one is a massive upset. I mean, talk about Cinderella. Oh, what’s that? Right… A five seed over a four seed. How many times has that happened? Answer — a lot. These games can sometimes be like an 8/9 matchup in the second round, however I think Oklahoma State will come out on top. Really good players have a tendency to carry a team on their backs while shooting the lights out versus their opponents. Synonym: Marcus Smart’s performance in this game.
  2. Butler (6) over Marquette (3). There is just something about Butler. I don’t think they will make it to the Final Four. In fact, I have them losing to Miami in the next round, but Butler has a tendency to play with magic on their side. See the two tournament runs as well as their win over Gonzaga earlier this year.
  3. San Diego State (7) over Georgetown (2). I think Otto Porter, Jr. is a great college basketball player. However I’ve seen A Hoya game or two where he’s the only player on the team in double figures. I like the Aztecs in an upset especially if they can lock down Porter. Georgetown also has the 247th ranked scoring and rebounding team in the country. San Diego State.
  4. VCU (5) over Michigan (4). Michigan hasn’t won back-to-back games since January. Point VCU.

 

Non Chalk Sweet Sixteen Picks- None. Just as a refresher, here’s who I have in the Round of Sixteen.

Sweet Sixteen Picks-

 

Midwest-

1 Louisville over 5 Oklahoma State.

2 Duke over 3 Michigan State.

 

West-

1 Gonzaga over 4 Kansas State. (Fun fact, GU beat Kansas State by 16 on a neutral floor already this year. Funny.)

2 Ohio State over 3 New Mexico.

 

East-

1 Indiana over 4 Syracuse.

2 Miami over 6 Butler.

 

South-

1 Kansas over 5 VCU.

3 Florida over 7 San Diego State.

 

Final Four Picks-

It’s almost all chalk in the Final Four for me. I have Gonzaga, Louisville, Kansas and… Miami as the last four teams left standing. I’m taking the ‘Canes over Indiana for a simple reason. Indiana struggles against really good defensive teams. The half of the Hoosiers’ losses that weren’t decided by one possession were to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Both good defensive squads. Miami also happens to be a good defensive squad.

In the actual games in Atlanta I have Gonzaga meeting Kansas in the national title game with Gonzaga winning. The Zags went 5-0 versus the Big 12 this year, and the topic of them actually playing Kansas has been broached by many a pundit. Here’s GU’s chance.

Kingdome Crossover- The Mariners Recent Power Surge is a Sign of Good Things to Come

Here is a piece I wrote on my Seattle sports site, http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/. It’s about the Mariners recent spring-training-power-surge. Check it out-

Maybe you have been focused on basketball, whether it be Gonzaga’s run or the return of the Sonics. Maybe it’s the Huskies and Cougars collective mishaps.

But have you seen how scorching hot the Mariners offense has been? Holy vienerschnitzel. The M’s lead every spring training club in homeruns, slugging percentage, total bases and are second in runs scored.

The Mariners also boast two hitters who are tied for second overall in homeruns. Those two would be Carlos Peguero and Franklin Gutierrez. Which is particularly amazing because one of the two will likely hit cleanup for the Rainiers and the other isn’t going to hit in the middle of the order.

Now, spring training is fickle. The game isn’t the same as the regular season. Guys are getting back into their routines. Pitchers shrug off getting shelled for 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

The batting is also a little different. Every top minor league prospect and their brother are getting at-bats. The love is spread for sure.

Spring training in the end doesn’t have a massive bearing on the season. Joe Saunders has been horrendous the past three spring trainings with ERAs of 12, 8 and 6. His regular season ERAs have been in the 4 ½, 4 and 3 ½ range in the last three regular seasons.

It’s apples to oranges.

But sometimes when Uncle Mo is delivering the apples, it carries over. While spring training is one big warm-up session, momentum is still involved. There is no denying that a team will carry itself better heading into the regular season if they performed well in spring training as opposed to a spring training in which they struggled.

The most important thing of it all is that the M’s offense is flowing. It’s producing home runs; it’s scoring in bunches. They’re making everyone else look pedestrian. With pitching a likely strength it’s nice to see the offense producing. Which is a good thing with Uncle Mo riding shotgun for the M’s.