The 2013 season is done for most teams, including the Mariners because of course. The Mariners haven’t played baseball past the point where most teams have to stop playing baseball since 2001, which you knew, but think about just how amazing that is. 2001 was a long time ago. Where were you in 2001? How different was your life then than it is now? How different was everything, really?
The Mariners certainly were different, as they won the most games in the history of Major League Baseball. That record is absolutely insane. 116 wins is talent + flukiness + even more flukiness, and that was the Seattle Mariners who did that. We don’t marvel enough about how nuts 116 wins in a season is. And why not dwell on the past when the present team just lost 91 games?
As tempting as it may be to fall into the pit of nostalgia that defines the hapless Mariners organization, it is the present that means the most for the future. As fans, we are justified in holding out hope for a winning future, even if the present – or recent past, whatever – doesn’t give us much reason to believe things are going to change for the better any time soon. Still, it is best to take a critical look at what happened in 2013.
To recap: the offense was below league average despite hitting lots of home runs, the rotation was two aces and then total crap, the bullpen was sheer unbelievable total crap, and the defense was incomprehensible unbelievable absolute crap. This was a really, really bad baseball team, and you don’t get one of those without bad players making minimal (or negative!) contributions. The Mariners weren’t good at anything. Let’s break the whole down to parts, start with the offense, sort in ascending order by plate appearances, and prepare to sob into our pillows.
Brandon Bantz – 2 PA, .000/.000/.000, -100 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
With 0.0 WAR, Brandon Bantz finished tied for thirteenth on the team with Raul Ibanez.
Carlos Peguero – 7 PA, .333/.429/.883, 224 wRC+, 0.1 WAR
Peguero finished the season with a .500 ISO and 0.1 WAR, both of which seem like numbers he could sustain over a full season.
Alex Liddi – 18 PA, .059/.111/.118, -45 wRC+, -0.3 WAR
It’s been a while since Alex Liddi was a Mariner, having been sent to the Orioles along with virtually every other marginal player who was once a 2012-2013 Mariner. What’s he been up to in Baltimore? They always get better when they leave, right? Actually, wrong. That’s a myth. That’s perception error, exacerbated by the fact that people in Seattle are inherently gloomy about all things Mariners. Anyways, Liddi hasn’t done anything.
Jesus Sucre - 29 PA, .192/.241/.192, 19 wRC+, -0.1 WAR
The Mariners used a lot of catchers this season, and Sucre was the best one named Jesus. He’s young, controllable, and plays good defense. There’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be a useful backup, assuming the team is willing to abandon the pathetic home run search that led them to Kelly Shoppach. Or he could, and probably will, help the Rainiers to many more second place finishes.
Carlos Triunfel – 47 PA, .136/.152/.159, -23 wRC+, -0.7 WAR
In limited action, Triunfel posted numbers that are really hard to grasp. That’s a whole lot of bad condensed into a handful of plate appearances. Triunfel managed to be exactly as much of a drain as Ronny Cedeno, but with six times fewer trips to the plate. Extrapolating Triunfel’s 2013 numbers result in the contraction of the Mariners.
Humberto Quintero - 72 PA, .224/.257/.328, 60 wRC+, 0.3 WAR
Another good defensive catcher, which was in all honesty a highlight of this Mariners team. The catchers, many as they were, generally proved capable of catching pitched balls. Factor in his time with the Phillies and this was the best season of Quintero’s career, which is hilarious.
Abraham Almonte - 82 PA, .264/.313/.403, 96 wRC+, 0.1 WAR
Almonte! Abe Almonte was a hot name in the season’s final month, as his production and overall game made him an immediate fan favorite. The general consensus on Almonte now is that he is ready to be a contributor in a major league outfield. What did Almonte do in Seattle, exactly, to earn such praise? Hit below average, played decent defense, and ran hard. He hit below average, I should say, despite a .333 BABIP that maybe isn’t that unsustainable for a speed guy. What Almonte did was play unspectacular but acceptable all-around baseball, which immediately made him a stand out on a team full of unathletic lugs who were godawful at everything except solo dingers. Think about how Almonte is a replacement level “quad A” type, then think about how he seemed to sparkle in comparison to the rest of the roster. Force yourself to admit that Almonte is a fringe fourth outfielder, then recalibrate your idea of what a good baseball player is. The Mariners baseball players are not good, or even close generally.
Robert Andino – 85 PA, .184/.253/.237, 36 wRC+, -0.2 WAR
One time Andino hit a hit that made the Boston Red Sox not go to the playoffs. That sure was a heck of a hit, for Baltimore, two years ago. Yup, heck of a hit.
Henry Blanco - 107 PA, .125/.215/.240, 27 wRC+. -0.3 WAR
The catcher circus that was the Mariners at some points featured grand-slamming Henry Blanco, who is “getting up there in years” as folks say. Henry Blanco would make a good coach, and he batted one hundred and seven times in the major leagues this year. And Eric Wedge blamed the kids.
Jesus Montero – 110 PA, .208/.264/.327, 62 wRC+, -0.4 WAR
He did it all. One of the quickest, most embarrassing top prospect flameouts in modern times. Originally acquired solely for his power, Montero ISO’d .119. Steamer projects him for one plate appearance next year, which seems bullish.
Kelly Shoppach - 125 PA, .196, .293, .346, 77 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Shoppach, who was deservingly released midseason, finished tied for sixth in WAR amongst position players. The Red Sox sixth-best player was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose 3.6 WAR would have led the Mariners.
Franklin Gutierrez - 151 PA, .248/.273/.503, 111 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Another sixth-place WARer, Guti posted an appalling on base percentage and a huge slugging percentage. Oh yeah, and he mostly played for the Rainiers at half-strength because Franklin Gutierrez is very frail. He probably won’t be back, but if he is look for the team to hand him a starting job and express confidence in his ability to play 140 games or something.
Mike Zunino - 193 PA, .214/.290/.329, 73 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
The Mariners have a AAA team, but decided they needed to use Zunino in the majors for most of the season because the Mariners want people to study their weird decisions and reach conclusions about how to handle young players based off of them. The Cardinals would not have done this, partly because they’re not desperate and partly because they’re not dumb. The jury is still out, of course, but man, this decision didn’t look smart at the time and it sure doesn’t look smart now that Zunino’s finished limping his way through what shouldn’t have been his first big league season.
Jason Bay – 236 PA, .204/.298/.393, 91 wRC+, -0.2 WAR
Holy crap, I forgot this happened. Jason Bay wasn’t any good with the M’s, and after his release he didn’t latch on anywhere. He’s probably done forever, and will stand continue to stand as a shining example of the team putting too much stock in spring training. Spring training doesn’t matter, but during spring training the Mariners became enamored with Bay, a no-defense, no-offense, all-leadership type and picked him over a young player who had shown real positive signs the last few years. The worst part of Jason Bay wasn’t Jason Bay, it was what he illuminated about this crazy, broken franchise.
Endy Chavez – 279 PA, .267/.290/.327, 68 wRC+, -1.3 WAR
Here we have the first true calamity of the list. The Jason Bay experiment was at least cut short at the right time, and there are reasonable defenses for the Zunino decision, but this team gave almost three hundred plate appearances to Endy Chavez. Worse yet, his hollow batting average made it so that inattentive fans and announcers lauded Jack Z for picking him up and Wedge for sticking with him or whatever. Endy Chavez was one of the absolute worst players in baseball this year, closing in on Paul Konerko levels of unwatchable, yet because he hit .267 on a team starved for singles he stood out. Oggling over Almonte is one thing because Almonte can play defense and run really fast. Chavez was below average at every measurable facet of the game, but his (mediocre) average was enough to blind an embarrassingly large contingency of the fan base. To his credit, at least people didn’t talk about him much. 279 plate appearances. You will not be missed, Eric Wedge.
Brendan Ryan – 287 PA, .192/.254/.265, 43 wRC+, -0.7 WAR
Still an absolute wizard at shortstop, UZR wasn’t a fan this year and so Ryan got no Andrelton Simmons-type boost to his WAR and ended up with a big negative number. It’s a shame the team traded him, because he had finally hit just bad enough to be justifiably benched, and what Brendan Ryan is is a brilliant bench piece and spot starter. The Pirates have a Brendan Ryan of their own, Clint Barmes, and look at them, they’re a playoff team. Good teams have players like Brendan Ryan on their bench, but this isn’t a good team. This is the 1995 Memorial Home Run Nice Guy Club, and defense is not welcome here.
Michael Morse – 307 PA, .226/.283/.410, 90 wRC+, -1.2 WAR
If Endy Chavez was a calamity, Morse was the earth crashing into the sun. The Mariners traded a valuable asset for this monstrosity of a season, as Morse combined his usual injury proneness and worst-on-the-planet defense with below average offense. He was worth nearly a win after the first two weeks of April, and negative two wins from that point forward. And he was exactly the type of player the Mariners went out searching for last winter. After being shipped to – where else? – Baltimore, Morse was even worse, so at least the “why do they always get better” crowd can just conveniently forget about him entirely.
Brad Miller – 335 PA, .265/.318/.418, 103 wRC+, 1.7 WAR
A bright spot! A real, true bright spot, Miller posted above average numbers at the plate and in the field, albeit barely. A league average defensive shortstop who can hit is an asset, so expect Miller to be traded straight up for Adam Dunn this winter. Get it, because the Mariners squander their assets. What Miller isn’t is a finished product, as seen by his mediocre OBP and sometimes shaky fielding. But what he might be is an above-average shortstop for the next half decade, and what the Mariners need more than anything is good players. Right now, Brad Miller looks like a good player. His spot on the 2014 team should be safe.
Nick Franklin - 412 PA, .225/.303/.382, 90 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Franklin drew immediate comparisons to Dustin Ackley and justified them by wrapping Ackley’s 2011 and 2012 seasons into a neat little 412 PA bundle. Which is to say, Franklin started out as a world beater before settling in as a frustrating young guy who can’t hit much. His 10.2% walk rate was a nice sign, but his inability to hit for the season’s last two months dragged his batting average low enough to counter out the patience. His power was fun, but his defense was not. Franklin ends his first ~full season with below average marks on offense, defense, and the bases. Pencil him in for next year!
Dustin Ackley – 427 PA, .253/.319/.341, 84 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
All anybody wants to talk about with Ack is how he hit .300 or so in the second “half,” which is actually more like forty percent of the season but hey, alright. His season as a whole is still a big bummer, and the shift to center field certainly didn’t help his value. Ackley doesn’t have a strong throwing arm, which isn’t that big of a deal when he plays second. He plays a really good second base, as a reminder, and should probably head back there as soon as possible given that this team really can’t afford to be creating any more defensive black holes if they want to continue their DH hoarding. Consider it another year in flux for Ackley, and hey, has anyone ever wondered if the Mariners might not be very good at handling the development of their young players? Someone should say something about that. Like, all the time.
Michael Saunders - 468 PA, .236/.323/.397, 98 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
It seems as though Saunders’ season has been written off by many as a failure, and it’s funny how narrative and perception can so easily misrepresent the way things really are. Saunders can still play fine defense in the corners, and he still adds value on the bases. He was roughly a league-average hitter, and that combination is valuable. He’s not spectacular at anything, but he’s certainly not terrible at anything either. Is he a fourth outfielder? Ideally yeah, or a platoon guy. Good teams find uses for good players like Saunders, while bad teams stick them in a starting role and then urge their fans to complain that the guy isn’t hitting enough solo dingers.
Raul Ibanez – 496 PA, .242/.306/.487, 117 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
The most divisive player in recent memory, 2013 Raul Ibanez broke an old guy home run record and played Morse-level defense, adding up to an exactly replacement level player. He was worthless, except that he so clearly wasn’t worthless. People absolutely love Raul. To lots of fans, he is the “obvious” best player on the team and a “no-brainer” re-sign. When I look at Ibanez, I see a player who just had a really sentimentally enjoyable last season in the majors. He shouldn’t be back because he’s not good, dingers be damned, but he will be back because this team is managed by box score fan sentiment. Seattle’s love for Ibanez is another indictment of our desperation to have good baseball players on the Mariners. It’s been so long since we’ve seen good baseball that Raul Ibanez seems like a superstar. That’s insane. We’re all insane.
Justin Smoak – 521 PA, .238/.334/.412, 109 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
The Mariners are overflowing with bad players who seem alright for superficial reasons, and Smoak is another one of those guys. He just put up an essentially replacement level season, and last year he was exactly this productive. His career WAR is -0.1, with his best season being 0.5 in 2011. We now have two thousand plate appearances worth of Justin Smoak, replacement level almost-27-year-old nobody, yet the organization insists on selling him as a part of the youth movement, a future star, one of the many players who’s on the verge of a breakout. Justin Smoak is very obviously not a good major league baseball player, and the sooner this realization goes viral, the better. The Mariners need good players, and so they need not-Smoak. He’s a drain. Also, Mike Carp is really good and should have opened the season with the M’s while Smoak sorted himself out in AAA, but this is an organization that doesn’t usually do the right thing, so why bother pretending to be surprised?
Kendrys Morales – 657 PA, .277/.336/.449, 116 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
Morales is going to get a qualifying offer worth $14 million, and if he’s smart he’ll accept it. Free agency values old guy skills, sure, but $14/1 is probably approaching three times Morales’ market value. If a win still costs about $5 million, which it probably does, then Morales should be in line for something like two years, $13 million. But nope, he’s a home run guy, so the M’s can’t lose him and have to pay him way too much and insist that he’s a “great” hitter when he pretty clearly is more on the “good” side. Morales is all set to be an expensive embarrassment, which is a shame because he really was a treat to watch hit this year. He was the M’s best performer in high leverage situations and has a very likeable approach at the plate. But he’s an extraordinarily slow DH who doesn’t hit enough to be even a star, and the Mariners have publicly announced their intention to give him fourteen million dollars.
Kyle Seager – 695 PA, .260/.338/.426, 113 wRC+, 3.4 WAR
Far and away the Mariners best player, Seager is kind of buried in baseball’s current 3B-heavy landscape, which is a shame. He’s a hitter first and foremost, but his hot corner defense is underrated by metrics and silently appreciated by those who watch him play. One of the most likable guys on the team, Seager stands out as (so far) the only young player to take a step forward and actually become a major piece for the present and future. That being said, a frigid finish to the season bumped his numbers way down and actually put him into a WAR tie with 2012 Kyle Seager. Much-to-all of his recent improvement was undone in September, leaving him as a very good player instead of the budding star we saw earlier in the summer. He’s not Evan Longoria, but he’s not Dustin Ackley. He’s Kyle Seager, and he’s the best non-pitching thing the M’s have going right now by a mile. His extension offer should be coming soon, and if he accepts, we’ll all have a real reason to celebrate.
Pitchers are next! Stay tuned!