With this afternoon’s good news that the Mariners are approaching something resembling full strength, it feels like an opportunity to look forward a bit. While last night’s 10-0 loss in Kansas City was a bit much, overall the Mariners have cobbled a 4-4 start through injury and snowstorm. The blistering start you always hope for hasn’t materialized, but neither has the catastrophic one you fear.
I had a bit of free time at work (do not tell work. I work very hard and make many widgets for Big Widget. Widget is all. Widget is life) so I started playing around with Excel and Fangraphs’ Depth Charts projections a bit.
My focus was on the positional side. There’s no reason re-hashing my issues with the direction the Mariners have gone with their starting pitching. Through eight games it has been disastrous. If it doesn’t get better, it won’t matter how well the position players play. I don’t think this is a controversial stance. If you do, this post and my thoughts on baseball are probably not for you, and that is ok for us both.
No, the intrigue for the Mariners in 2018 is what is possible on the positional side. I went through and compared their remaining Depth Charts projections at each position with those of the other AL West teams. What I found was, ah…..
There’s actually some really cool and fun bright spots here. Mitch Haniger is, as of right now, projected to be the best right fielder in the division! An under-30, cost-controlled star in the making, just like I’ve always predicted him to be, that’s Mitch. Also Nelson Cruz is currently the best designated hitter alive. It will forever be a tragedy what happened to his home planet, but we are blessed he made it out before the cataclysm struck and that his spaceship found Earth.
Overall though, as a great man once said, “YIKES!” The Mariners are projected not only to have the worst position in the entire division at first base, their left field is second. Perhaps most surprising is that, at least by this methodology, the Mariners shortstop position ranks last in the division as well.
A lot of the failures here can be attributed to a lack of depth. This system of projection is spreading the production of players like Luis Valbuena in LA, and Marwin Gonzalez in Houston, liberally over various positions, allowing for a healthy buffing over whatever, say, Zack Cozart and/or Alex Bregman may produce.
Still, the numbers aren’t great. The Mariners look like the AL West’s third place team this year. That’s not exactly a revelation. Our preseason predictions largely had them there. More interesting, and certainly much more depressing, is that, at least by this one projection system which you are free to disagree with for various reasons, the Mariners are middle class leaning far closer to poverty than they are to wealth. The gap between the Mariners and the Rangers is a win and a half. Seattle and Houston? Nearly seven.
None of this is a surprise, and if you’ve read or followed Dome and Bedlam for any length of time you know we aren’t particularly optimistic about the team this year. This is just one exercise. The truth is what it has always been. The Mariners need their positional starters to collectively hit something like their 80-90th percentile projections for health and productivity. They absolutely cannot afford to lose any starter for longer than a few weeks, and they desperately, desperately need Ben Gamel to be the 1st half of 2017 batting champion contender rather than 2nd half of 2017 present day Dustin Ackley impersonator.
I may use Depth Charts later this week to do this exercise with pitching but, really, my guess is you’d rather I not. This team is living and dying with what it does when its best players have the bat in their hands. So go forth and rake, boys. It’s the only way.