Seattle Mariners: Grades for Every Player in May
The month of May wasn't the easiest for the Seattle Mariners. The highest highs were all but negated by the lowest lows, and multiple significant personnel changes occurred, drastically changing the look of the Mariners for the time being.
If this team is going to fully turn things around and at least make a push at a winning record, improvements need to be made quickly. June will be friendlier, schedule-wise, as the Mariners play 18 of their 27 games at Safeco Field where they've played much better this season. The Mariners also play five teams that currently own losing records, so an improvement in the win column can be expected.
If the M's continue their slumping ways, skipper Eric Wedge may find himself out of a job midseason.
With a new month ready to begin, let's take a look at letter grades for every player for the month of May.
All statistics current as of May 30.
*All statistics via ESPN.com, baseball-reference.com and MLB.com unless noted otherwise.*
May statistics: 2-2, 3.31 ERA, 37 K, 6 BB, six starts
Even King Felix wasn't his usual self in May. Back-to-back rough outings against Cleveland and Texas resulted in two losses and an increased ERA, but even he can't be expected to be nearly perfect every time he pitches, though he comes pretty close.
Hernandez allowed five earned runs in each of his two losses, but just three earned runs in his other four starts combined. He continues to prove himself as a top-three pitcher in baseball and is well deserving of each and every dollar his new contract is paying him.
May statistics: 3-0, 3.09 ERA, 32 K, 6 BB, five starts*
Seattle's other ace has been equally impressive this season, catching the eyes of baseball fans outside the Pacific Northwest en route to a 5-1 record through 11 starts.
But Iwakuma also saw his ERA inflate slightly in May, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio decreased. That being said, Wedge is trusting him more now, letting him pitch into the seventh and eighth innings more frequently. In April, the most pitches 'Kuma threw in a game was 93, which he has surpassed in all but one May start, tossing a season-high 108 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hernandez and Iwakuma may be the best one-two starting pitching punch in baseball, but they can only do so much.
*Iwakuma is scheduled to start May 31 against Minnesota.
May statistics: 1-2, 5.97 ERA, 18 K, 9 BB, five starts
The inconsistency of Joe Saunders continues. As was the case in April, Saunders pitched very well in half of his starts, and very poorly in the other half. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was much improved from April to May, but his ERA increased and sits at well above 5.00 for the season.
The notion of signing Saunders to be the reliable veteran starter at the back of the rotation was a good one, but he's been much too inconsistent to warrant any vote of confidence from fans and likely his teammates.
Depending on how Saunders and the rest of the Mariners perform for the next two months, he could find himself on his way out of Seattle by the end of July.
May statistics: 2-2, 4.01 ERA, 23 K, 3 BB, four starts
Aaron Harang's overall numbers won't show it, but he's miles better now than he was at the beginning of the season.
Just a month ago I was ripping him apart, giving him a grade of F, deservedly so. But Harang has really turned things around in May and is Seattle's third-best starter.
He allowed two earned runs in each of his first two May starts, then got roughed up against the Angels but bounced back against the Padres, tossing the Mariners' first complete-game shutout this season.
Harang's turnaround is encouraging, but can he keep it up the rest of the way? After a terrible first month and a good second month, he'll likely be somewhere in between from here on out.
May statistics: 0-3, 8.24 ERA, 14 K, 9 BB, four starts
The Mariners took a chance by inserting unproven rookie Brandon Maurer into the starting rotation, and so far it hasn't paid off. After an impressive spring training, Maurer has struggled mightily in his first 10 big league starts and finds himself back in the minors at Triple-A Tacoma.
Bottom line:The kid wasn't ready yet.
Hopefully a stint in the minors will allow him to regain some confidence and find his stuff again, and hopefully he uses the rough start to his career as motivation rather than getting down on himself.
May statistics: 3.18 ERA, 14 K, 2 BB, 1 Hold, 11.1 innings pitched
Carter Capps has emerged as a reliable seventh- and eighth-inning man for Eric Wedge. He allows a hit per inning but he tends to get out of trouble unscathed, and that's the bigger picture.
He throws hard and has a lot of movement on his pitches, making it challenging for hitters to connect. But when he leaves a 97 mph fastball over the plate, he gets rocked more often than not.
If Capps can be a little more consistent with locating his fastball he can be a good closer one day, but he's only 22 and has plenty of time to develop.
May statistics: 7.04 ERA, 13 K, 2 BB, 7.2 innings pitched
Rookie Danny Farquhar's numbers are a bit of an enigma. He has a great K/BB ratio and WHIP (0.91), but a huge ERA.
Maybe it's because he's allowed more runs than hits this season. But, none of them came via the home run, and he hasn't allowed any inherited runners to score. It boils down to him giving up big hits with runners on, and some bad luck.
When runners reach base, they generally score against Farquhar, an area he'll need to improve upon if he wants to be successful in the big leagues.
May statistics: 0-2, 3.29 ERA, 2 blown saves, 15 K, 5 BB, 13.2 innings pitched
Southpaw Charlie Furbush has been slightly unreliable this season, blowing two saves and allowing three out of 12 inherited runners to cross home plate.
Similar to Farquhar, Furbush gets easily rattled when batters reach base. He has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 12 hits this year.
Wedge should consider using Furbush more as a long reliever, as he tends to pitch better when played for two or more innings. With Hector Noesi likely being inserted into the starting rotation as a result of Maurer's demotion, look for him to be used less frequently for longer periods of time.
May statistics: 1-1, 4.00 ERA, 2 holds, 9 K, 7 BB, nine innings pitched
The biggest area for improvement for rookie Yoervis Medina is his control. He rarely gives up more than one hit, but runs score on him most often when he allows a base on balls.
He's been reliable for the most part, though, keeping the ball low and inducing ground ball outs and has a surprising amount of poise for a rookie.
With a little more grooming, Medina will be a fine reliever for many years.
May statistics: 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 14 K, 4 BB, seven innings pitched
Former starting pitcher Oliver Perez is excelling in his new role of left-handed specialist and middle reliever.
He has come a long way since he was a starter for the Mets with an ERA above 6.00. Perez is one of the most consistent guys out of the bullpen for Seattle and should be used to close ballgames if Tom Wilhelmsen becomes incapable.
Perez can still start a game if needed, and I'm curious to see how he would do. But for now he's a viable option out of the bullpen, and Wedge can turn to him in confidence.
May statistics: 4.26 ERA, 5 K, 2 BB, 6.1 innings pitched
After a terrible end to the 2012 season and an even worse spring training, Hector Noesi got called up this April and pitched surprisingly well, only to be sent back down to Triple-A Tacoma. He has appeared a total of five times this season, sporadically being called up and sent down, but now he's in Seattle for a while, and probably as the fifth starter.
Noesi has looked good in limited playing time so far, and it'll be interesting to see how he fares as a starter if that's indeed where he's placed.
May statistics: 0.82 ERA, 3/5 converted saves, 8 K, 4 BB, 11 innings pitched
Tom Wilhelmsen was perfect in terms of save conversions up until the most recent road trip, and his woes continued the other night against San Diego. Wilhelmsen has now blown two consecutive save opportunities, both resulting in Mariners losses.
That being said, "The Bartender" is still one of the best closers in baseball and an All-Star candidate, and this is surely just a hiccup in what's sure to be a very successful campaign.
May statistics: .340/.386/.553, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 11 doubles
Without a doubt Kendrys Morales has been Seattle's hottest hitter in the month of May. After a slow start to the season, Morales' bat has come alive, and he's been a reliable run producer.
Morales has hit safely in all but four games this month, raising his batting average from .250 to .298. His continued production is vital to the future success of the Mariners, and drawing more walks would help.
Morales has walked just 18 times this season compared to 37 strikeouts, a number that isn't ideal but fairly typical for power hitters.
May statistics: .240/.350/.344, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Justin Smoak is continuing to show patience at the plate, drawing 12 walks in May and 25 total this season. But it hasn't helped his average much, and his power numbers are at an all-time low.
He's currently day to day with an oblique injury, and hopefully it's only a matter of time before Smoak gets hot. If he never does, he might be forever labeled a bust and be done in Seattle.
May statistics: .250/.308/.750, 2 HR, 2 RBI, four games played
The long-awaited arrival of prospect Nick Franklin finally happened last week, and he has made a quick impression.
Franklin collected his first career big league hit against San Diego on May 29 and added his first and second career homers in the series finale on Thursday.
He's always been known as a good hitter, and Franklin immediately confirmed the hype by hitting two solo shots out of cavernous Petco Park. He's also looked pretty good at second, though he made a crucial error in Seattle's 3-2 loss in San Diego.
I know it's still very early in Franklin's big league career, but if his first four games are any indication, he certainly has staying power and appears to be a key building block for the Mariners' future.
Like Noesi, though, Franklin didn't play enough in May to be fairly graded.
May statistics: .138/.243/.200, 1 HR, 7 RBI
After hitting a respectable .253 in April and putting together a nine-game hitting streak, Dustin Ackley went ice cold at the plate, going hitless in 19 straight at-bats before being demoted to Triple-A Tacoma.
It was a change that needed to happen. Hopefully Ackley comes back better than ever, at the same time giving Franklin a chance to get a lengthened taste of the big leagues and securing a roster spot as a starter or backup.
While Ackley appears to be turning things around in the minor leagues, only time will tell how much the relegation will help.
May statistics: .261/.292/.406, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Earlier this season, Brendan Ryan lost his starting job at shortstop—which says a lot, considering how good he is with the leather. He hit .149 in April and was looking as bad as ever at the plate. But May was a different story. Ryan made sensational plays on defense and hit the ball well, by his standards.
The new-look Ryan is refreshing, and hopefully he keeps swinging a hot stick. He's a decent batting average away from being an elite shortstop, something the Mariners haven't had since Alex Rodriguez.
May statistics: 0 for 10, 2 K, 0 BB
The Mariners recalled middle infielder Carlos Triunfel for a second tour of major league duty upon designating Robert Andino for assignment. So far, Triunfel hasn't has an offensive presence but is a solid defensive infielder and currently the only backup infielder on the active roster.
Triunfel will very likely be sent back down to Tacoma once (and if?) Ackley gets recalled, but for now Triunfel is a capable backup to Ryan and Franklin.
May statistics: .253/.318/.421, 3 HR, 10 RBI
Third baseman Kyle Seager continues to be one of Seattle's most consistent hitters and run producers. May was a bit of a down month for him, yet he still drove in 10 runs and hit seven doubles.
There are few hitters Mariners fans want to see at the dish with runners on, and Seager's one of them. He also plays above-average defense at third and has missed just two games so far this season.
May statistics: .300/.333/.733, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 10 runs scored
Veteran outfielder Raul Ibanez wins the most improved hitter award for the month of May. In 60 at-bats this month, Ibanez has doubled his hit total, has hit five more homers and has driven in 13 more runs than he did in 57 at-bats in April.
From May 10 through May 18, Ibanez hit six home runs in seven games, reminding us all how good of a hitter he is.
With Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez on the shelf, Ibanez has been seeing extended playing time and proving his worth as one of Seattle's best hitters this month.
May statistics: .267/.360/.413, 3 HR, 9 RBI
After his blistering hot start was halted by an injury, Morse hasn't quite had the same success. He still has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark in any given at-bat, and he's been much more patient at the plate, drawing 11 walks in May compared to four in April.
Morse needs to heat back up and soon, but for now he's listed as day-to-day with torn quadriceps.
May statistics: .193/.283/.307, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 11 runs scored
On May 6, Michael Saunders was hitting .306. Ever since it's been a slow downward spiral, and he now finds himself hitting near the bottom of the order at a .208 clip.
The biggest issue for Saunders has been the strikeouts. He has fanned 34 times this month, including three hat tricks and 12 multi-strikeout games.
If Saunders can cut down on K's and get on base more, the Mariners will be able to implement more hit-and-runs and steal attempts, with Saunders being one of few stolen base threats on the roster.
May statistics: .267/.267/.422, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Endy Chavez is another guy who's been granted more playing time due to injuries, and his glove alone is worth it.
On multiple occasions this season Chavez has taken away extra base hits; a much needed defensive replacement for Gutierrez.
Though he's the closest thing the Mariners have to a true leadoff hitter, Chavez has walked only one time this season. He rarely strikes out, but being at the top of the order it would be nice to see him get on base more as he's another stolen base threat.
May statistics: .208/.328/.472, 4 HR, 7 RBI
Jason Bay's power numbers are up, but his average is way down this month, and yet Wedge continues to stick him near the top of the order.
Maybe it's because he gets on base? Bay has shown patience in his at-bats and has a good OBP, and nearly half of his May hits have gone for extra bases, so maybe dropping him a few spots in the order would help his run production.
May statistics: .132/.214/.316, 2 HR, 4 RBI
As the Mariners have struggled to find an everyday starting catcher, Kelly Shoppach has struggled to get everyday playing time.
The backstop mixup with Shoppach, Jesus Montero and Jesus Sucre has disallowed any of the three to see consistent playing time. Shoppach is the best defensively, but like many of his teammates, his average has plummeted in May.
He and rookie Sucre have been trading days as the starter, and neither of them have made much of an impact.
May statistics: 1-14, 1 RBI
Rookie Jesus Sucre got called up for the first time not more than a week ago and hasn't quite found his swing yet.
Maybe it'll come around as he gets more at-bats, but for now he's effectively hitting as well as the man he replaced, Jesus Montero.
Sucre is a defensive upgrade as well, something the Mariners desperately needed.
May statistics: .211/.286/.342, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Hopes were high for Jesus Montero to turn things around after a bad first month, but he didn't come through and now finds himself at Triple-A Tacoma.
Montero was one of the top prospects in baseball when he was acquired from the New York Yankees, but his sophomore season has been very disappointing.
Based on his defensive liabilities, Montero is likely to transition into a full-time DH at some point, but he needs to hit first.