Heading into the All-Star Break, the Mariners are third in the AL West at 45-44. Let’s hand out awards to the players who contributed to this up-and-down season so far.
The Mariners, as their 45-44 record indicates, have had their ups and downs this season. After a promising April and May, they stumbled in June and have shown a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde tendency so far in July. The result is third place in the American League West at the All-Star Break.
The Mariners have had many new faces and a new management approach this season that has produced results both good and bad. I’m going to hand out some mid-season awards to players, coaches, and managers on the team based on their performances so far. Some of these awards you are familiar with, others I made up.
Let’s start with the conventional awards:
Team MVP: Robinson Cano.
Runners up: Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager
Even after a terrible June that brought some of the Mariners’ offensive stats down a bit after their torrid start, the Mariners still rank in the top five in most offensive categories in the American League. This is partly due to the resurgent performance of second baseman Robinson Cano.
Cano has already matched his home run total from last season with 21 heading into the All-Star Break. He’s the Mariners’ sole representative at the Midsummer Classic*, and among the league leaders in most offensive categories in the American League. He’s been caught not hustling at times, but for the most part his slick fielding and consistent production in the middle of the lineup has helped the Mariners the most out of anyone else on the team so far this year. And, per baseballreference.com, Cano is the fifth most valuable player in Major League Baseball by WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
Team Cy Young: Edwin Diaz
Runners up: Steve Cishek, Taijuan Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma
Mariners’ pitching has, shall we say, declined, since I wrote an article about the surprising effectiveness of the pitching staff over a month ago. That was before a disastrous June, during which Mariners’ pitching went 10-18 with a 4.84 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. Those numbers, which has resulted in the Mariners tumbling out of first place in the American League West to third place, are a result of injuries and an overtaxed bullpen. Also, new additions made my General Manager Jerry Dipoto like Wade Miley and Nate Karns have been mediocre at best, especially during the past month.
Diaz gets the honor by default because he has been team’s most effective pitcher in the bullpen since coming up from Tacoma. On the season, Diaz, in his 17.2 innings, has a 2.55 ERA and a whopping 34 strikeouts. That’s 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings, folks. Despite allowing 19 hits in those 17.2 innings and carrying a high 1.42 WHIP, Diaz’s Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP) isn’t much higher than his ERA, at 2.89, on the strength of ridiculous strikeout numbers.
The fact that I have to put Diaz here shows the struggles with health that the Mariners’ pitching staff has dealt with this season. Felix Hernandez is on the longest DL stint of his career, Taijuan Walker, who, aside from a few throwaway games, has been mostly effective, is now on the shelf with plantar fasciitis, and even Steve Cishek, who has 21 saves on the year, has suddenly been wild and showing signs of gopheritis in recent games.
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Gold Glove (Best Overall Fielder): Robinson Cano
Runners up: Leonys Martin, Kyle Seager
I know. I’m as shocked as you are to see how effective Cano has actually been defensively this year. He looks like his range factor should be next to nothing and his lackadaisical sidearms to first base are maddening. But, according to Baseball Reference, he has been the best fielder on the team this year. He’s only made two errors all season (Seager has made 10, Martin two, in half the chances as Cano), and has been six runs saved above average defensively this season. Go figure.
Cano’s range factor, for the record, is 4.55, per BR.com, better than Seager’s and Ketel Marte‘s.
Best Offseason Pickup: Dae-Ho Lee
Runners up: Leonys Martin, Steve Cishek, Adam Lind
Dae-Ho Lee played his way from a spring training invitee to regular starter this season by demonstrating that he can hit and field. Acquired by Dipoto for peanuts and a lot of performance-based promises, Lee was the right-handed platoon mate of Adam Lind (who has hitting much better recently after a swoon to start the season) to start the year. Eventually, he forced manager Scott Servais to insert him into the lineup on a regular basis.
In addition to quietly playing good defense at first, (two total zone fielding runs above average) Lee is sporting a healthy .288/.330/.514 slash line in 64 games this season. Strangely, he’s hit three times more home runs as doubles, yet he’s managed a good batting average. Considering the Mariners spent almost nothing to acquire the former Korean Baseball Organization MVP, Lee has been an excellent return on investment for Dipoto and company. For all the new faces on the team this year, Lee winning this made-up award speaks volumes about the guy’s effectiveness for the Mariners in the first half.
Best Coach/Manager: Edgar Martinez
Runners Up: Scott Servais, Tim Bogar, Manny Acta
First, a tip of the cap to Servais, who, other than an overly-quick hook for his pitchers, has managed the Mariners as well as could have been asked of the first-year manager. Dipoto wanted a man he could trust to impart a consistent message in the clubhouse, and Servais has been that man. He has also trusted in the numbers with things like platoons and defensive shifts, which is a refreshing approach. He’s made some unlucky decisions at times with the pitching, but overall I didn’t see many games he’s lost because of bad managing. Servais has done this without any sense of losing control of the clubhouse or dampening team chemistry.
I gave the award to Gar because of the wonders he has wrought on this Mariners lineup. They are second in the American League in home runs and fifth in runs scored. In recent games, I’ve even seen them drive in runs with bunts and sacrifice flies. Martinez has been particularly impressive in his work with guys like Leonys Martin, who has already swatted four more home runs than his previous career high while compiling batting ratios higher than he’s posted in years.
You can see it all over the lineup. Martinez is coaching three hitters with a .900 or better OPS (Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Seager). Gar has also coaxed useful slugging percentages out of Adam Lind (.438 and rising), Franklin Gutierrez (.469), Dae-Ho Lee (.514), and Seth Smith (.450). Make no mistake, this lineup has few harmless batters, and it’s because of one of the greatest Mariners ever is the hitting coach.
Heading into the second half, there’s room for hope if we can find another “team Cy Young” candidate.
*We’ll have a Mariners All-Star snubs article on ECS soon.