In last week’s column, I wrote about the hot start for Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger and his dramatic ascension towards elite, breakout-rookie status. Well, as impressive as he’s been for the M’s, he’s not the only new face on the team who has been locked in this April.
Super-utility man Taylor Motter cracked the starting lineup midway through the month when stating shortstop Jean Segura went down with a hamstring injury. When Segura returned, Motter simply stepped out to left field, then mixed in a few days at third base to fill in for a briefly injured Kyle Seager. Then, he added a few games at first base and the next thing you know – Motter is playing every day.
“THAT’S THE MOTTER, AND HE ‘BOUT IT EVERY DAY”
Rapper/hip-hop artist Drake has a very uninspiring song that for some reason rings in my head whenever I think of Taylor Motter. Drake’s popular hit, “The Motto” includes lyrics – and I will paraphrase to help keep it clean – “That’s the motto, and we ‘bout it, every day, every day, every day…” Whenever Motter comes to bat in a Mariners game I change a few words of the Drake song and wish the song was referencing Motter playing every day.
Clearly, I need to find better things to think about in my free time.
Anyways, the point here is a little bit of the injury bug for other players on the team (now Haniger is on the disabled list with a strained oblique), and a very ineffective Leonys Martin (designated for assignment) mixed with an extremely hot start by Motter and here he is – playing every day! Now THAT’s the Motter!
INSIDE HIS APRIL NUMBERS
In only 64 at bats, Motter has ripped five home runs and seven doubles with a .250 average to go with 13 RBIs and two stolen bases. His average has dipped a little bit over the past few games or so, but he was above or around .300 for a while. At one point, he even led the Mariners in home runs with those five blasts, until Nelson Cruz had enough of that – homering in three straight games to tie him.
There have been some very trendy words and phrases being thrown around baseball lately such as “sabermetrics”, “exit velocity”, “launch angle” and “defensive shifts.” Thankfully, I’m not going to be talking about defensive shifts when it comes to Motter and what Seattle does with him. Defensive shifts are annoying and super boring to write about. Let’s talk about exit velocity a little bit.
Motter currently finds himself flirting with a spot on a very prestigious top-10 list that is highly coveted more so by really nerdy people who love home runs than anyone else, but it still is pretty neat to point out. According to www.MLB.com’s statcast, The Mariners utility man is currently 13th on the list in highest average exit velocity with 93.6 mph. Above him are more popular house-hold names in terms of pure power such as Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz.
Motter hasn’t hit a home run since April 23 in Oakland, but at one point was No. 10 on the exit velocity list. Simply put, he is having a month of April that no one expected.
WHAT TO EXPECT MOVING FORWARD
It’s safe to say that he won’t be an almost-exclusive, extra-base hitter. Of his 16 hits, 12 have gone for extra bases and it would be weird if he continued at that ridiculous pace. He only has two stolen bases, but was scouted as having above-average speed, so if he starts hitting singles, maybe we will see an increase in stolen bases as well. His walk to strikeout ratio isn’t bad, but it could use some work – 6/16. I guess the strikeouts come with the unexpected power numbers.
Ideally, that batting average will get to around .275 or so, and he will cut down on the strikeouts while sacrificing some of the power. It’s just weird to think that he is a better version of Ben Zobrist – able to play more positions defensively and with better speed – but, maybe that’s what he is? Ben Zobrist 2.0.
ENTER HIS ‘HAIR’ INTO THE AL ROY DISCUSSION?
Last week, I wrote about Haniger throwing his hat into the ring during the American League Rookie of the Year discussion. Well, Motter might not literally cut all of his hair off and throw that into the ring as well, but instead of throwing a hat in, maybe we can metaphorically throw his hair into the ring.
Last week’s discussion created some buzz online about AL ROY candidates. (I may have had one or two re-tweets and three comments on Facebook about it.) I totally forgot about Aaron Judge, who plays in New York, so by default people will talk about him. One of my cousins is a Baltimore Orioles fan and he whined about leaving Trey Mancini off the list citing “everyone talks about the Red Sox and Yankees.”
AL East fans in general need to relax. Andrew Benintendi is a glorified slap hitter with unattractive curly hair. Aaron Judge will strike out 170 times, but hit 30 home runs so he’ll still be a top-five candidate. Mancini does a lot of things “averagely” (which isn’t a word) except hit for a good average – currently .256. Most of his stats came in two games and he’s back to the bench now with Seth Smith fresh off the D.L. for the Orioles.
Meanwhile, in the AL West, team injuries are fueling the success of Motter, as Mariner manager Scott Servais doesn’t even have to make hard decisions when it comes to finding room to play him.
Even if the Mariners are at full strength, I believe Servais will be able to get regular at bats for Motter – whether it’s in left field, center field, right field, short stop, first base, third base or second base. Somewhere around the diamond, someone will always need a day off.
I hope he can keep hitting, driving in runs and scoring some as well. With the way the Mariners have been pitching lately (minus James Paxton), they will need all the runs they can get.
He’s the Motter – and he hopes to play – every day, every day, every day.