There are few things that can be absolutely, irrefutably predictable in baseball. The New York Yankee's will spend gobs of money to the chagrin of every non-Yankee fan on the planet. Ken Griffey Jr will get injured just when you think he is ready to regain the mantle as one of the best players in the game. And Randy Winn will start slowly but catch fire in July and end up hitting.285 or better with 14 home runs, and end up the Mariners second most reliable hitter at the end of the season.
You know this, man!
The guy is a rock, so why are Mariner fans so quick to dismiss him?
Well, first off, he doesn't hit home runs. Not many anyway. As a 15 home run guy playing for the American leagues biggest offensive cream puffs, he just doesn't pack enough wallop to justify his existence on the team. He also strikes out 100 times a year, which is just a little too much for a productive number two hitter, especially without a middle of the order threat behind him.
He's fast, but not quite fast enough, stealing a shade over 20 stolen bases a year, and he is just good enough with the glove to keep Willie Bloomquist thinking he might be a major league starter someday. He's quiet in the clubhouse, doesn't smile all that much and is just about as transparent a player on the field as there is. Compared to the man he was traded for (I write with a chuckle,) he could be a mime.
The ultimate clichéd sports description couldn't fit any better. Solid but unspectacular.
So somebody please explain why Bill Bavasi is holding on to him so tightly. He has Bucky Jacobsen in his back pocket, so the risk isn't all that great, and Bavasi would surely love to shed the eight mil or so remaining on Winn's contract. What gives?
Okay, I'll bite.
Randy Winn is going to have a breakout year in 2005! Yep, you heard it here first, and before you spill your coffee onto your keyboard, from the uncontrollable knee slapping, allow me to explain why.
As unspectacular as his numbers are on the surface, one thing stood out in my mind that caused me to look at the numbers a little deeper. He had 81 RBI's hitting behind the Ichiro; two shy of Bret Boone's team leading 83 RBI's. With an offense as anemic as the Mariners last year, it's actually quite an accomplishment. Remember setting the table for Ichiro was the craptacular Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Olivo most of the year. Yikes!
I'm not going to regurgitate a bunch of statistics, but I encourage you to take a closer look at Randy Winn. His three-year splits with runners on are borderline fantastic, and his RISP average is a rock solid .325, far surpassing Raul Ibanez, Bret Boone or the incomparable Edgar Martinez. In fact, probably the best comparison I found was none other than Mr. Clutch, Derek Jeter, and for those who would point to the fact that Winn is hitting behind the best leadoff hitter in baseball, need only look at his 2002 numbers, which were every bit as good as 2003-2004. He just happens to prefer hitting with somebody on base, as evidence by his less than stellar three-year .746 OPS, but put a runner in scoring position and it jumps to Hank Blalock-like .871.
I think this partially explains why he got off to such a slow start in 2004. Ichiro wasn't getting on in front of him.
Winn is one of the smarter hitters in the game, patient at the plate, with a knack for hitting the ball where the defense isn't. A productive augment to Ichiro, who demands constant attention from the defense, as a switch hitter, Winn is strong enough to drive the ball down either corner, allowing Ichiro to easily score from first on a double.
So why is Randy Winn is still a Mariner? Here's the reason..
Given his penchant for hitting with runners on base, and now being protected by the best 3-4 hitting duo in the game, Randy Winn is going to have a MONSTER year. Not .300 with 95 RBI's, but a legitimate .315 with 20 homeruns and 100 plus RBI's. If there is one non-pitching Mariner poised for a career year in 2005, it's Randy Winn, who has never benefited from having a legitimate masher (much less two) hitting behind him.
The argument could be made that Jeremy Reed should bat 2nd in 2005, but Bill Bavasi is keenly aware of Randy Winn's unique clutch hitting skills, and has a great appreciation for them, even if they fell under the radar with everyone else. As good as Reed may be someday, Winn is a proven commodity and given the fact that Mariner fans are expecting an immediate return to respectability, an unproven rookie batting second on a team trying to return to contention, may not be in the cards.
Is Winn still expendable? Sure, but on a 99-loss team, just about everyone is. Especially those with multi-year, Multi-million dollar contracts.
But does Bill Bavasi recognize that Randy Winn is worth more than most people think? Heck yeah, and that is why Bavasi has been so reluctant to trade him. Bavasi understands the quiet value of having Winn hitting behind Ichiro, and it just may be that Winn has more value to the Mariners than any other team. If the right deal comes along, the M's won't hesitate to trade him, but more than likely, Randy Winn will start the 2005 campaign as a Mariner.
In 2005, there will be many storylines for Mariners fans to pay attention to. The new sluggers, the probable debut of Felix Hernandez and hopefully, a return to contention for the division title. But don't forget to keep an eye on Randy Winn, who could quietly deliver an All-Star worthy performance.
Even if nobody is paying any attention.
Winn Here to Stay?
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