BY John Hickey 06:00AM 03/05/2012

Hickey: Montero means big help for Olivo

Montero isn’t ready to be a full-time catcher, but neither is Miguel Olivo, at least from a physical standpoint. The job-share, including John Jaso, is a way out of the ditch at catcher.

Jesus Montero took one on the chin Friday. but he's OK. The question is, can he be OK enough behind the plate to save a fading Miguel Olivo? / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Led by Miguel Olivo, Mariners catchers contributed 21 homers, 75 RBIs and a .214 batting average to the meager Seattle cause in 2011. Of that, 19 homers and 62 RBIs belonged to Olivo.

The power totals weren’t all that bad. The homers were sixth-most by an American League catching corps. The RBIs were seventh-best.

Not so much with the average. With Olivo’s .224, Seattle catchers were 11th among the 14 teams.

Is there any way to improve that for 2012? The Mariners are desperate to say yes.

Olivo’s power numbers led the the Mariners, who won just 67 games and finished last in runs scored. At 33, he also caught 120 games and had 25 passed balls, one short of the American League lead.

The play wore on him. From the first half to the second half, his home run production went down (12 to seven), as did on-base percentage (.265 to .237), OPS (.657 to .620) and RBI (40 to 22).

What happened?  The Mariners believe they simply had to play Olivo too often. Backup Adam Moore went on the DL the first week of the season. His replacements, Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez were OK defensively, marginal offensively.

What to do? Get help. General manager Jack Zduriencik traded All-Star starter Miguel Pineda, one of Seattle’s best stories in 2011, to the Yankees to for Jesus Montero, considered the best hitting prospect in the New York system and one of the best in the game.

If things go according to script, Montero won’t catch that many games, maybe 40. Those will be 40 that Olivo won’t have to catch, although he could get some games as DH. Add a once-a-week start behind the dish for probable backup catcher John Jaso and Olivo’s starts catching could go below 100.
That would be good for Olivo and for the team. Olivo, 34 in July, needs the rest.  The 130 total games he played in 2011 was a career high, and past the upper limit of where he’s comfortable.

Olivo said at the end of last year, “I think 118-120 games played as a starting catcher would be perfect.” It might be a dozen or so too many, if the .213 batting average in September is any indication.

Manager Eric Wedge hasn’t spelled out how he wants to use Olivo. But in September, the manager said he wanted to push Olivo as far as he could.

“I think he has earned it,” Wedge said. “He takes care of himself.”

Even so, there was enough concern about overuse that Zduriencik picked up a good backup catcher in Jaso, then obtained Montero, a guy of unpolished defensive skills who could nonetheless be a huge boost to Seattle’s lackluster offense.

The Yankees didn’t need Montero to catch last year when they made him a September call-up. He played in 18 games, catching three. Scouts have been less than enthusiastic about the 22-year-old’s defense, although most see him improving with time.

The Mariners think so. They have put third base coach Jeff Datz, a former catcher himself, on the job. Wedge, also a catcher in his playing days, can’t handle the minute-to-minute work that entails, but he nevertheless keeps a close eye on the catching.

“There are always things you feel you can help a young player with and he’s no different,” Wedge said. “Because we’re not in a hurry with it, Datz will do a fantastic job with it. They’ll develop that bond and working relationship day-to-day.

“He (Montero) is handling himself well.”

Because the Mariners aren’t in a hurry, they can break him in slowly. That means the club will almost certainly get more offensive production out of the catcher’s spot than a year ago.

Olivo should be better for not being forced to play 130 games. The expectation is that in his infrequent time behind the plate, Montero will dwarf the two homers and 13 RBIs that non-Olivo Mariner catchers produced.

It’s a long shot that the offense will be transformed by this one change. But it’s a start that has to work to elevate the Mariners from futility to respectability.


YourThoughts

  • Tim

    How are we expected to enjoy the game without hearing “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It?” That vague reference to Figgins’ name is what gets me ready for a late inning rally.

  • Drew

    I want to know if he (still) feels that being moved to 3rd was a “demotion”… that’s one I’ll give A-Rod–don’t remember hearing that sentiment with the decision to move one of the most productive SS (in history) to 3rd…and I don’t think it affected his productivity (either)…(or. Ripken).

    It is nice to see his glove starting to come around (hopefully)…now if he could get his timing (at the plate) synched. Come on CHAMBLISS….channel a little Bob Horner into your protégé!

    • Tim

      He was originally a 3rd baseman that we moved to second base last year when we (for some reason) shifted Jose Lopez from 2nd to 3rd. So now he has no excuses for feeling uncomfortable in his position.

  • Skysport

    Figgins best friends have been the official scorers. If Figgy has to move his feet more than your typical statue they call it a “hit”. Sometimes even when the ball hits him (which is not very often because he acts like it’s an atomic hand grenade) they still call it a hit! If there’s a hot shot coming his way he’ll take a stab at it, but he won’t get in front of it. He’ll blow it a kiss, but he won’t get in front of it. He’ll wish it well on its journey, but he won’t get in front of it. Did you know that you’re not supposed to get in front of ground balls? Yep. It’s in the rule book. The rule book that Figgy wrote and keeps in his back pocket. You’re only supposed to “pick” the ball like it’s a carrot in a garden. And if you don’t come up with anything, no problem, because your best friends the officials scorers will call it a “hit”.

  • Beacon Hill Pasta Boy

    Figgins is another M’s bust. Dump him and “power” DH, Jack Cust. Jack has no home runs in 28 games and is hitting sparkling 200.

  • Roscoe

    I think errors should be renamed “figginses” and a dumb play could be a Chone head move.

  • Hammtime

    “But by the time he finishes his three years in Seattle, chances are his QB rating is going to hover in the mid-80s.”

    I think we would take that wouldn’t we? Of course we’d love that number to be above 90 too….

    • Artthiel

       Hamm, most fans would take it; just didn’t want people to expect 92-rating miracles.

  • Dusty827

    Flynn has started only 2 games, but has played in 34 in the time he’s been with the Packers. So he has tons more NFL experience to what Matt Hasselbeck had when he came to the Hawks under Holmgren. In fact, Hasselbeck had no starts and only exhibition game experience at GB. As long as Flynn is just steady and not a liability, I’ll be very happy. This team is a run first offense, sprinkled with the passing game, not the other way around, and the QB doesn’t have to be the star. Great deal Seattle!

    • Artthiel

       Flynn in his first year will be able to manage the game, and not necessarily have to win it. Except for th SF games, which Pete wants bad.

  • Old Dog

    I’m in for Flynn. When comparing Krieg and Hasselbeck keep in mind the brutal division the AFC West was during Krieg and Chuck Knox’s tenure vs the NFC West (light). If we have a scrapper like Krieg was – it will be outstanding!

    • Artthiel

       Old dog, good reminder about the AFC West. Flynn has some Mudbone in him.

  • jafabian

    It’s Hasselbeck all over again.  Flynn will be given the chance to start but most likely he’ll split time with Jackson and be expected to simply learn the offense.  Hard luck for Jackson as that towards the end of the season things started to click but the first half of the season he looked like he was forcing things and the last game of the season didn’t look too good for him either.  We’ve seen from the fact that Jim Mora was canned after only one season as well as GM Rich Cho with the Blazers that Paul Allen has limited patience nowadays.

    • Artthiel

       The point about Allen is well taken, jafabian. No green bananas for this dude.

  • RadioGuy

    As horrified as I was that the Seahawks brought Tarvaris Jackson to Seattle last year, I didn’t think he played all that badly consdering how little time he had to study the offense, had to work with an entirely different set of teammates (including an offensive line that allowed 50 sacks) while playing with a torn pectoral muscle.  If anything, I thought he showed a lot of guts to play with an injury that affected his passing.  I don’t think Jackson’s a Pro Bowl-quality QB, but I wouldn’t hand his starting job over to Flynn before the ink’s dry, either.  Let’s see how Matt plays behind a sack-prone line while throwing passes to the likes of Mike “What Me Worry” Williams first.

    BTW, whatever else can be said about Dave Krieg, his teammates loved him, including his linemen.  Never underestimate that last point.

    • Dennis Shimmel

      T Jack has been in this Offense for six years( with Bevel in Minnesota) , If you can’t figure out how to read a complete field in that amount of time – YOU ARE a back up!

      • RadioGuy

        You mean like Matt Flynn has been for four years in Green Bay?  Yeah, the guy he played behind is a pretty fair quarterback himself, but all I was saying (in essence) is that instead of simply anointing Flynn the starter before he’s even taken a snap in practice, maybe he should go out and EARN it.

        Look, I think signing Flynn was a good move.  He was a winner at LSU and he SHOULD be an improvement over what we saw last year (how could he be any worse than Whitehurst?).  I just favor having the crown all polished up and kept in a nearby closet until Flynn takes the throne on his own merit.

        • Artthiel

          Good research, radio. And all known to Schneider, who made it known to Carroll. As Krieg and Vince Young proved in opposite ways, superior athletic talent ain’t everything. 

    • Artthiel

       Radio, I agree that Jackson exceeded expectations. The fact he did as well as he did behind the young injury-prone line was commendable. Flynn however, stands to profit behind an improved line. T-Jax better get a helluva dinner out of Flynn.

  • http://twitter.com/appctrllrdocs appcontrollerdocs

    You know, “the same guys who brought Seattle Charlie Whitehurst ” are ALSO the same guys who brought us Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Russell Okung, Earl Thomas….

    • someknucklehead

      Noted, but evaluating a QB vs a DB or RB is like evaluating a wine vs evaluating a cigar. Not the same thing….

    • Artthiel

       True dat, app, but QB selection is often the defining act of an NFL front office. The Whitehurst selection, then and now, was baffling, and suggestive of a blind spot. 

  • Dennis Shimmel

    Flynn has shown ( in limited appearances) that he can read a defense and the whole field. That by it self is a huge upgrade. Now if we can only get another WR or two and HOPE our O-line can remain healthy and continue to grow this team is definitely headed in the right direction.

    • Artthiel

       Good points, Dennis. The decision-making is what will separate him from Jackson.

  • 1coolguy

    Here’s to hoping either QB will operate behind a MUCH improved OL.
    If the OL performs well, it will be a very good season.

  • Belovedson

    the gamble we took on flynn is the right way of approaching free agents. he has a high ceiling _ matt and costs a little more than backup money. It opens the door to more possibility in the draft. in so many categories we win. reaching for a qb will set us back, most likely. if flynn is a slightly better qb, and we had him last year = maybe, playoff?

    so many fans expect a team to somehow read the future and pick the right franchise qb and that simply does not happen. having a game plan, being smart, and methodical, without panic often results in wins. wins provides a better chance at the super bowl.

    i am not so sure why the hate on the flynn pick up  

  • http://twitter.com/kingwabbit Jeff Shope

    I’ll take another Dave Krieg in a heart beat
     

  • Soggyblogger

    Dang, I came to really like his play, and his attitude. I kept screaming and posting for the Seahawks to take him, but foolishly, they did not listen to me. He was the perfect long term replacement for Mebane. He was a steal in the fourth. If Turbin wasn’t so great, I would be madder than I am, but no team can get all the good players. I wish Alameda great success in the NFL. I might even root for them in spite of still harboring resentment about the SB. 

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