In a few weeks Mike Trout will be announced as the American League MVP. Around that same time we’ll hear that Clayton Kershaw was the National League Cy Young winner, and probably the MVP, too. One of Felix Hernandez or Corey Kluber will be revealed as winner of the American League Cy Young. There’s not a lot to debate in the awards voting this year, and the fact that Felix vs. Kluber is by far the tightest race just goes to show how much we already know about awards season.
So let’s make things interesting and scale it back to the team level. The 2014 Seattle Mariners won 87 games, or more than they’ve won since 2007. They had three players eclipse the five-win threshold for the first time since 2009. They boast the Cy Young favorite and two other guys who should probably be getting some love in MVP balloting. They won with depth, too, of course, but it’s hard to ignore the star power at the top of the Mariners’ roster.
The question is simple: who was the MVP of the 2014 Seattle Mariners? Let’s start by eliminating some very good players. Hisashi Iwakuma was awesome, but missed the first month and was lousy the last month. He’s out, despite being excellent. Fernando Rodney had a nice season, but the closer only carries with him an inning’s worth of impact at a time. Good stuff, but not good enough. Let’s also toss out Lloyd McClendon, since managers can’t be quantified. Without McClendon, maybe this team loses 87 games. But we don’t know that, so he’s out.
That leaves the three guys who passed five WAR on the year: Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Felix Hernandez. Each has a compelling case that they were the most valuable Seattle Mariner this season. Let’s review those cases.
Felix Hernandez: 34 GS, 236 IP, 9.46 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, 2.14 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 6.2 WAR
Felix was, at worst, the second-best pitcher in the league this year, though really it was clear nobody in the NL outside of Kershaw really came close to his level of dominance either. So top three in the game, without pause. He beat his career-bests in ERA, FIP, and walk rate, while coming oh-so-close to his best-ever strikeout rate. He led the team in WAR. He got better, when it seemed he couldn’t possibly. He led an amazing pitching staff and came up huge all season long.
Robinson Cano: 665 PA, .314/.382/.454, 136 wRC+, 5.3 WAR
Cano was the best hitting second baseman in MLB this year, as his wRC+ narrowly edged Jose Altuve for best in baseball. By wins above replacement he finished only slightly behind Ben Zobrist and Ian Kinsler, who were darlings of the defensive metrics. Cano provided one of the best offensive seasons Seattle has seen since prime Ichiro Suzuki, and really stepped into a leadership role as a veteran amongst young guys. He thrived as the team’s best hitter and delivered as good of a debut season as anyone in Seattle could have hoped for. How do you overperform expectations in the first year of a ten-year deal? Do what Cano did, that’s how.
Kyle Seager: 654 PA, .268/.334/.454, 126 wRC+. 5.5 WAR
Hey look, a homegrown Mariners star position player! Seager broke through with his most powerful year yet, leading the team in home runs while also showing improved glovework at third base. Seager proved that it’s absolutely possible for a young hitter to thrive in Safeco Field, taking his game to the next level and providing the most WAR of any position player on the team. His all-around value, considerable youth, and ever-improving level of play made Seager not only a star this year, but one who still appears to be on the rise.
So those are the three. What do you think? Who was the MVP of the 2014 Seattle Mariners?