Mariners center fielder Jarrod Dyson is preventing runs and creating extra bases with speed and savvy.
The Mariners Opening Day roster had Jarrod Dyson penciled in for right or left field and Leonys Martin, with his radar-like coverage of Safeco Field’s spacious lawn, getting regular playing time in center field. The question wasn’t whether Dyson could play the outfield. He had proved he could with the Kansas City Royals. The question was: could Dyson hit well enough to keep himself in the lineup?
Dyson’s traditional batting slash isn’t the most impressive in the Mariners lineup. His .249/.327/.364 line this season is down from last season, his final one with the Kansas City Royals, when he hit .278, a career-high.
We knew what we were getting when Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto flipped starting pitcher Nate Karns for the veteran outfielder. The man with 11 career home runs* and 193 career steals in his eight years in MLB came to Seattle to run down fly balls in the outfield and create problems for opposing defenses on the basepaths. So far this season, Dyson has been as advertised.
Dyson has saved 11 more runs than the average outfielder so far this season according to Baseball Reference. By the end of the year, with regular service in center field, which it seems he has earned, that number will improve as he runs down more fly balls.
Dyson earned a 7.9 Fielding and Positional Adjustment combined defensive rating above average from Fangraphs. He amassed a 15.3 rating above average last year, and appears well on his way to that mark this season with regular work in center field.
The Mariners have benefited from Dyson’s work getting around the bases as well. He’s on his way to eclipsing his career-high in steals this season with 17 so far. His career high is 36 with the Royals in 2014. His Baserunning score, according to Fangraphs is already better this year than last year: 5.7.
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If you think of Dyson’s 17 steals as extra bases he gains from hits, walks, or HBPs (he has been plunked nine times already this year),** his contributions to the offense look more like a traditional slugger’s. Manager Scott Servais doesn’t care if runs are scored on one swing of the bat or with a swing, a steal, and taking two bases on a single. Dyson scores runs and provides speed and chaos for opponents in the bottom third of the batting order. He has never scored more than 52 runs in a season. This year, he already has 41.
So even though Dyson has a career .680 OPS, his contributions in the field and on the basepaths make him a starter for this team for the time being. As long as his batting numbers don’t take a huge tumble into below-replacement levels, he should be a valuable piece of the 2017 Mariners trying to end their lengthy postseason absence.
*Dyson has already doubled his career-high in home runs this season with four. He came into this season with seven career home runs.
**Some historical context: The Major League record for most HBPs in a season is 51, set by Hughie Jennings in 1896. Jennings holds three of the top four single-season HBP records in MLB history. And you thought your day job was hard.