For the next several weeks, Emerald City Swagger will review the 2018 Seattle Mariners piece by piece. We start with the position players, then move on to the pitchers. Today is outfielder Mitch Haniger.
Mitch Haniger was named the 2018 Seattle Mariners Most Valuable Player by MLB.com and it’s no surprise at all. He was second on the team in home runs and runs batted behind Nelson Cruz, with 26 and 93 respectively. Much of the season he led the team in rbi’s before becoming the lead-off hitter late in the season.
What truly made Mitch Haniger the MVP for the Mariners was that he produced anywhere he batted in the lineup. He started the season batting sixth then went to the cleanup spot when Nelson Cruz was out of the lineup for several games. Manager Scott Servais also batted Haniger in the second and third holes before settling him in as the Mariners lead-off man.
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Dee Gordon had been struggling at lead-off because of his broken toe after getting off to a good start. Gordon was put down at the bottom of the lineup when Haniger was inserted in the lead-off spot.
Another area Mitch Haniger excels in his defense. He has a rifle of an arm and threw out 12 runners trying to advance on him in 2018. That tied for the lead in outfield assists with Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox and Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds.
Haniger also played 35 games in center field, starting in 26. That was done because Servais wanted to get Ben Gamel and Denard Span in the lineup at the same time with Haniger. The manager, however, feels that right field will be his everyday position, though feels comfortable with Haniger center field as well.
How about some of his highlight moments from this season? We can start with his mid-June against the Angels at Safeco. In three games Haniger was four for 12 with three home runs including a walk-off winner on June 13 to sweep the series. For good measure, he had a pair of outfield assists. Less than two weeks earlier, Haniger hit a walk-off dinger to beat Tampa, on the first.
M’s fans should have known Haniger would be clutch all 2018. In the opening series on Easter Sunday, Haniger hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, to drive in two runs which proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win.
He was sharp with his glove as well. Who could forget him falling into the stands while making a leaping catch of a fly ball against Detroit on May 19? then there was diving, full extension catch of the final out to seal a 3-2 win over the Yankees on September 9.
In his two years with the Mariners, Haniger has shown consistency and according to Servais, he is the team’s hardest worker. In 2017, his first as a Seattle player, he was limited to 96 games because of injuries. He batted .282 with 16 home runs and he drove in 47 runs.
His 2017 stats, calculated to a full season, would end up almost identical over a full season to his 2018.
2017- .282 BA, .352 OBP, .491 SLG, .843 OPS, 26.5 HR*, 78.3 RBI* *estimated
2018 – .285BA, .366 OBP, .493 SLG, .859 OPS, 26 HR, 93 RBI
I expect even greater things from him in 2019 and beyond, however, I would take the 2018 stats every year. I believe Haniger whether next season or the one after that he is going to be a superstar.