The Mariners have put together yet another relatively disappointing season…but is there more to it? Is there any way the M’s have taken a step forward? The optimist in me says: Yes! Absolutely. But as with any other realistic fan, it’s easier to look at the back tracking of the club.
But there are bright spots. No matter how small they are. For example, the Mariners are currently on pace to finish with a 72-89 (h/t Baseball Prospectus) –
which would be a step back but, the Mariners’ offense has improved, despite that not showing in the standings.
Their total oWAR from last year was 16.8..this year? 18.1. The club’s oRAR (Offensive Runs Above Replacement Level) this year has improved by about 20 points since last year. If you’re not a fan of sabermetrics, then you can look at the fact they’ve hit the fourth most HR among AL teams.
But there’s still the problem of the Mariners not scoring runs at a moderate clip. They’re scoring around 3 runs per game (good for 24th in MLB) and last in the AL West. That means that the Houston Astros are scoring more runs per game than the Mariners. Just let that soak in. The Astros, the worst team in baseball, are scoring more runs per game than the Mariners.
So, what does this show? It shows that there’s an increase in individual performance but no improvement in overall production. There isn’t any way around poor overall offensive production. To put this into a better frame of reference, the Detroit Tigers are scoring around 5 runs per game. They also have an oWAR and oRAR of 25.5 and 252 respectively.
But offense and dingers aren’t what will be remembered by the M’s or the fans..it’s going to be the emergence of multiple top prospects. Nick Franklin, of course, being the first of the promotions. He’s currently leading all AL rookies in HR(12), fourth in RBI (41), second in BB (31).
His average and OBP aren’t impressive (at all) but those stats generally take a little longer to improve. Then you look to Mike Zunino who hasn’t exactly dazzled but has put together a solid season. His defense is already major league level - it’s just his offense that everyone is waiting on – but that will come in time.
You also can’t forget about Brad “Crazy Legs” Miller, who is currently leading the club in triples and is fourth in stolen bases. He’s also leading all Mariners rookies in batting average, OBP, SLG and runs. His offense has managed to outshine his defense, which has been…below average, at best. Again, it’s only a matter of time before those defensive kinks are worked out. He won’t necessarily be a Brendan Ryan type fielder, but should improve.
So if you take an improving, albeit still terrible, offense and the emergence of a multitude of rookies..you can see why the Mariners are going to improve. Will they make the playoffs next year? No. Will they even play .500? Probably not. But, the club will continue to improve. If they’re going to succeed, their youth has to get playing and has to learn.
Sure, there will be blunders and misplayed balls, but that’s something that has to happen in order for the club to become a winner with bona fide star quality players. Suffice it to say, the M’s are making strides to become a winning ball club.