Safeco Field is known as one of the best pitcher parks in the big leagues, which is one reason why the Seattle Mariners are one of the most offensively-challenged teams in baseball. Camden Yards in Baltimore however, is a bandbox of sorts and a ballpark in which the ball flies out of stadium during the summer. Just for that reason alone, it is fairly unbelievable that Nelson Cruz has followed up his 2014 season with the numbers he is putting up in his first season in Seattle.
Before the 2014 season, the Mariners tried really hard to sign Nelson Cruz, but he eventually signed with Baltimore. Cruz went on to lead the league in home runs and led the Orioles back to the playoffs. For Cruz, it was a redemption year of sorts as he was coming off of the Biogenesis scandal and he had to reprove himself, and I think it’s safe to say that he did just that.
Fast forward now from October to December 4th, 2014.
Cruz was a hot free agent target and one of the best power right-handed bats on the market. That is exactly what the Mariners needed, and they ended up getting their guy on a 4-year deal. They may have overpaid at the time, but if they knew what kind of numbers they would be getting from him so far in 2015, they may have been willing to pay more.
One of the biggest reasons for him signing in Seattle was Robinson Cano, Fernando Rodney, and Felix Hernandez recruiting him. Cano, Rodney and Cruz have played with each other for the Dominican Republic and Cruz bought into that as a main reason to sign with the Mariners.
The Mariners were also expected to compete for a division crown with Cruz, but those plans may have failed.
Many thought that there was no way Cruz could follow up his 2014 season with the same numbers playing in Seattle, but he may have proved some people wrong. He hit .271 with an .859 OPS and 40 home runs in his one year stint with Baltimore. In 2015, he has been even better. At the plate, there haven’t been very many hitters better than Cruz.
His 34 home runs through August 11th lead the league and to go along with that, he’s been hitting for average as well. His .324 batting average, .609 slugging percentage, and .998 OPS far and away exceeded many expectations people had for Cruz coming into this season. In addition, Cruz also leads the Majors with 140 hits.
Hold on, he’s putting these numbers up in Seattle? Seattle, the place that has been a graveyard for hitters basically since it was built?
It’s truly remarkable what he has been able to do for the Mariners, it’s just too bad that they will more than likely miss the playoffs once again.
Anyway, I digress. Along with putting up those numbers at the dish, Cruz has been playing a decent right field for the Mariners. The numbers may not show that, but he has definitely passed the eye test on defense.
So, why not an MVP for Nelson Cruz?
He was the AL starting DH in the All-Star game and his numbers have been remarkable.
Currently, he is on a 21-game hit streak and has flat-out raked in the month of August. So far this month, Cruz is hitting .425 with a 1.514 OPS and that backs up a July in which he hit .336 with with a 1.011 OPS.
In a season where players have been good, there haven’t been many players that have totally gone out there and dominated like, say a Mike Trout or a Miguel Cabrera when he won the Triple Crown. The hot pick right now could be Josh Donaldson because he is helping the Blue Jays get to the postseason and is in the spotlight as Toronto has been the hottest team in baseball.
Nelson Cruz, however, may not be in the spotlight like Donaldson, but could be on the path to a Triple Crown. He’s third in average, first in home runs, but is seventh in RBI which may be too much to overcome. The RBI can be tough to come by for Cruz playing on an offensively-challenged team like the Mariners.
Nonetheless, Cruz has surpassed all expectations and has flat-out hit, and hit for power, in his first season playing in Safeco Field, a ballpark in which you’d be lucky to hit 25 home runs a season.
This “losing team” dilemma has actually come up in the past in Seattle.
When Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010, there were many people questioning whether he deserved that award coming from a losing ball club and from a pitcher that had just 13 wins. But, the numbers proved to outweigh the wins that year and rightfully so, Hernandez was awarded the Cy Young.
The deck may be stacked against Cruz, but the numbers sure don’t lie. You have to look at what he is doing, but maybe more importantly, where he is doing it.
He’s not going to be Mike Trout and steal 20 bases or be a gold glove outfielder, but you have to look at the bigger picture and maybe disregard the losing record. It will be tough to win the award, but if Cruz’s name is called in November when the awards are announced, it will be well-deserved for Boomstick.
Cruz is having fun doing what he is doing in Seattle and is comfortable with his 4-year deal and playing baseball with his good friends. It has all seemed to click so far in his first season in Seattle and maybe it will end with an MVP.