Zoning in on Joaquin Benoit
Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos. On deck tomorrow: Taijuan Walker.
Some guys, they want that closer role. They need the closer role. They think working the ninth is different and have to know it’s theirs.
Joaquin Benoit is not one of those guys.
Benoit, who was acquired back in November via trade from San Diego, does have experience closing—locking down 24 games for the Tigers in 2013 and closing 11 games for the Padres in 2014. But the save statistic some guys chase doesn’t mean all that much to him.
“I don’t really get the part where everybody’s thinking three outs in the eighth and three outs in the ninth are any different,” he said in speaking on the Cactus League Report. “And you see, every setup man will tell you this, 90 percent of the time in the eighth inning you’re facing the heart of the lineup.”
How do you handle it, those spots?
“It’s not hard when you get used to it, but you put a lot of pressure on yourself,” he said. “Basically what you do is eliminate situations. You get the first guy out and everything else takes care of itself.”
Even as he closes in on the age of 40, he’s 38 now, that ability to get the first guy—and the guys after that—is still very much there.
Last year, Benoit limited hitters to a .157 average and .242 on-base percentage, the best and fifth-best in the National League in 2015 respectively. He was especially good against righties, holding them to a .144 average, also tops in the National League. It helped that, at one point, he held right-handed hitters hitless for 41 consecutive at-bats.
How does he do it? In speaking following the acquisition, Dipoto walked through his repertoire.
“He’ll sit 94 to 96 on a given night, and he’s got a power changeup that’s a dive-bomber,” he said. “He’s also got an above-average Major League slider as well. He’s three-pitch back-end guy with three out pitches at any moment in time.”
It’s something the Mariners are excited to having to throw at teams toward the end of games.
“This is both a stabilizing and impact move toward the back-end of our bullpen,” Dipoto said. “He continues to turn in quality performance year after year. He’s been durable and effective in every way.”
Off the Field
Like a few other players who have joined the fray this offseason, Benoit isn’t only excited t0 see what the Mariners are like on the field, but also to see more of the city of Seattle itself.
“Seattle, to me, is one of the best cities, one of the cities I love the most,” he said. He’s a big fan of Pike Place Market.
While he likes the fish there, he also likes to catch some fish of his own, and one time even caught a shark—though he had to throw it back.
Growing up, he wanted to be a mechanic, but of course he ended up sticking with baseball. As a kid, he played all the positions, but as he couldn’t run all that well, he ended up as a pitcher. Judging by a career that stretches now into hits 15th Major League season, that was a good decision.
More in the Zoning In on the 2016 Mariners Series:
- Norichika Aoki
- Luis Sardinas
- Chris Taylor
- Boog Powell
- Nathan Karns
- Vidal Nuno
- Justin De Fratus
- Mike Zunino
- Steve Clevenger
- Adam Lind
- Wade Miley
- Charlie Furbush
- Shawn O’Malley
- Dae-Ho Lee
- Tony Zych
- Jesus Montero
- Steve Cishek
- Franklin Gutierrez
- James Paxton
- On deck: Taijuan Walker
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