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If it looks like there’s already chemistry between J.P. Crawford and Adam Frazier, it’s because this isn’t their first rodeo manning a middle infield together.
The scene was the 2015 Arizona Fall League, where Crawford, then just 20 years old in the Phillies’ organization, and Frazier, age 23 in the Pirates’ system, teamed up for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Both played shortstop, the position they were brought up playing and where Crawford has remained. Frazier, who also came up in left field, didn’t shift primarily to second base until 2018, well after he’d reached the Majors.
That powwow nearly seven years ago -- when they were still far from the big leagues -- was short-lived but long-lasting for the admiration it built between the two. So when Crawford learned that the Mariners had traded for Frazier in November, he was stoked to reunite with his former teammate.
“I just thought it would be cool to play with him up the middle in the big leagues one day, and here we are,” Crawford said. “So it's kind of a small world. I was hyped. The guy is a competitor. He’s a gamer.”
The feeling was mutual. Frazier was an above-average defender for the Pirates, worth nine outs above average during his time there, but as a team, Pittsburgh’s infield ranked 22nd, at -29. His new double-play partner is a Gold Glove winner, plays every day when healthy and has zero tolerance for sloppy defense.
“His attention to detail -- he stays on top of it and makes sure you are paying attention to detail so you’re getting better every day instead of just going through the motions,” Frazier said of Crawford. “That’s his thing.”
Through the weekend, they’ve turned nine double plays and have looked smooth doing it.
“The feeds that J.P. is giving [Frazier] at the back of the bag, they're up in the right spot so it's easy to turn a double play,” manager Scott Servais said. “And Adam has got plenty of arm strength to complete those plays, but it's all in the feed.
“You start putting that feed in different parts of his body, and all of a sudden, now he's off balance and it doesn't work. That's why you practice over and over and over again, and the casual fan just says, ‘It’s a double-play ball, it should be turned.’ But there's a lot that goes into it. Our guys do a really good job at it.”
The Mariners haven’t had a true second baseman to pair with Crawford since Dee Strange-Gordon left after 2019, and Frazier is only under contract for ‘22. But the Mariners’ front office loves Frazier’s offensive approach, he’s been an on-base machine batting leadoff and he can play left field. Add those up and he might be a strong candidate for an extension much like Crawford, who on Opening Day signed a five-year deal.
IN THE NEWS
• Ty France might be the hottest hitter on the planet after going 18-for-38 on the homestand. His four homers will stand out, but it’s his patient, diligent and -- he might even note -- boring approach that has led to consistency.
• Whether it’s rookie treatment from umpires or what, Julio Rodríguez has been run up for an astronomical amount of called strikeouts, leading MLB through last weekend. If it seems unprecedented, it is. Here’s a look at why, and how pitchers are attacking him.
• COVID-19 impacted the Mariners’ clubhouse over the homestand, sidelining Servais, third-base coach Manny Acta, right fielder Mitch Haniger, catcher Luis Torrens and reliever Paul Sewald.
GETTING TO KNOW NEGRÓN
While Servais is sidelined, Kristopher Negrón has served as acting manager. He was named the Mariners’ first-base coach this season after managing Triple-A Tacoma last year.
Q: Was there anything last year in your first year managing that caught you off guard?
Negrón: “I think just getting to know the arms, bullpen management type stuff, because obviously I was a position player, so that was my forte. So learning that last year and just kind of learning the whole pitching philosophy and analytics and all that stuff is something that I really took a lot of pride in, getting to [learn] last year with my pitching coach down in Tacoma and continuing that conversation in Spring Training with [pitching coach Pete Woodworth] and [bullpen coach Trent Blank].”
Q: As a player, were you aware of how much goes into an analytics game plan?
Negrón: “Not at all. I was a part of all the meetings, but you never realized what goes on behind the scenes -- a lot of people putting in a lot of hours, and it's greatly appreciated. I wish I knew that when I was a player; I probably would have walked up and shook a lot more hands thanking them for all the work that they put in.”
Q: How does game planning here differ compared to Triple-A?
Negrón: “It's just a little bit harder in Triple-A, because guys get called up mid-game and all that stuff, so you kind of get wrenches thrown into your plan. You can only plan so much, and then you just kind of have to deal with whatever gets thrown your way.”
We’ll occasionally utilize Statcast’s tracking data to highlight notable Mariners feats and analytical ways to digest the game.
Rodríguez’s blossoming speed was a hot topic in Spring Training, but perhaps no one realized that he’d be this fast. Rodríguez is averaging a 29.8 feet-per-second sprint speed, making him the fifth-fastest runner in baseball this year, behind only Trea Turner, Bobby Witt Jr., Mike Trout and Matt Vierling. Sprint speed tracks a runner’s fastest one-second window, where 27.0 is the league average and 30.0 is elite.
Here's one example of his speed.
Andrés Muñoz recently threw the fastest pitch recorded by a Mariner since pitch tracking was implemented in 2008, at 102.8 mph. Who previously had Seattle’s fastest heater?
A. Arquimedes Caminero
B. Edwin Díaz
C. Carter Capps
D. James Paxton
• MLB.com researcher David Adler did a deep dive on why Matt Brash could be the nastiest new pitcher in 2022, looking at some of the analytics while pulling commentary from the rookie’s interview with the social media personality @PitchingNinja.
• The folks at MLB Pipeline looked at each team’s potential closer of the future. I saw the guy they listed for the Mariners during Minor League Spring Training, and his stuff gives him the potential to accelerate through the organization quickly.
FROM THE VAULT
With the Mariners visiting Tampa Bay this week, we went all the way back to Tropicana Field’s inaugural season, when Edgar Martinez crushed one to the upper catwalk beyond left field in 1998. Edgar loved hitting at the Trop, sporting a career slashline there of .318/.439/.533.
Trick question! Caminero (Sept. 9, 2016) and Díaz (Aug. 8, 2016) both hit 102.2 mph, which stood as the record before Muñoz.
• New in ‘22 at T-Mobile Park: The Mariners announced a variety of value deals at T-Mobile Park, including $3 hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos, Red Vines licorice, bottled water and Coca-Cola fountain drinks. Additionally, all sodas will come with free refills. For the over-21 crowd, 13 adult beverages will be available at various locations around the ballpark priced at $5 and $6 for 12oz cans.
• May 6 is J.P. Crawford bobblehead night. The first 20,000 fans will receive this one-of-a-kind bobblehead.
• Two days after that is Mother’s Day (May 8), and the first 10,000 moms (age 21 and over) will receive a Mariners Clear Purse.
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