Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon made the correct move and demoted struggling outfielder Abraham Almonte to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday evening. Almonte hadn’t done much in the month of April as a leadoff hitter for Seattle, hitting .198 with an OBP of .248 while scoring only 10 runs and swiping three bags.
But give credit to McClendon for recognizing the value a productive Michael Saunders plays in his team’s lineup. With Almonte doing poorly, Saunders began to get regular playing time in the outfield and atop the Mariners’ batting order on May 1.
It’s no coincidence over the last week either, that Saunders is slashing .370/.393/.444 and the Mariners are one of the hottest teams in MLB, going 6-2 since May 1 and 8-2 across their last ten games. Including all of the 2013 season and what’s been played so far in 2014, in Mariners wins Saunders’ line is .328-52-9-38-11. In Mariners losses since the start of 2013, Saunders has a line of .191-19-4-15-3.
As a macrocosm, those numbers show shocking disparities and help to evaluate just how valuable the 27-year-old Canadian is to the Mariners ball club when he is performing at a high level. As a microcosm from yesterday’s double-header against the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners’ success again seemed to go how Saunders went. In the first game of the double dip, which the Mariners won 6-4, Saunders went 1-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. In game two later that evening, Saunders went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and Seattle lost 2-0.
Saunders is only a career .226 hitter who doesn’t particularly struggle more against left-handers or right-handers in any fashion. He never hit finer than .310 in a season at the Triple-A level, so Mariners fans will have to take the good with the bad and hope Saunders can stay hot for a good portion of the month of May.